REVIEW: Stronger

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Review by Dustin Heller

Stronger is the new biographical drama about American hero Jeff Bauman, one of the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing.  The film is directed by David Gordon Green who has a quite well-rounded filmography.  He’s directed mainstream comedies such as Pineapple Express and Your Highness, along with somber independent films such as Joe and Snow Angels.  Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the lead role as Bauman with support coming from Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, and Clancy Brown.  Stronger is rated R for language throughout, some graphic injury images, and brief sexuality/nudity.

In an attempt to win back his ex-girlfriend, Jeff Bauman showed up at the finish line of the Boston Marathon to show his support and cheer her on.  Little did he know that his life, and the lives of everyone he loves, would never be the same after that fateful day.  Jeff happened to be standing right next to one of the bombers and lost both legs in the explosion.

Jeff not only survived, but he also helped the police with a description of the bomber which would eventually lead to his capture.  Jeff is a genuine American hero and the definition of “Boston Strong”, but his battle was just beginning and it’s one that would push him to his limits on his road to recovery.

Stronger isn’t just another feel-good movie where the underdog overcomes the odds to eventually win in the end.  It is a gritty, true-to-life portrait of what happens to those affected by tragedy once the smoke clears and the hype has dwindled.  Not everyone asks to be called a “hero” or to be put in the spotlight or, even to a grander extent, to be the face of American triumph.

This is exactly what happened to Jeff Bauman, even though he didn’t ask for any of it.  When confronted with horrific events such as 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing, and even the recent hurricanes that swept across parts of Texas and Florida, most of us want to help however we can. Eventually, we move on, but those affected by these tragedies aren’t so fortunate.

Stronger takes us behind the scenes of what it looks like for someone whose life has been forever altered and will never be the same again.  This is a very profound film in that it opened my eyes to the bigger picture of tragedy and its effect on life.  Because of its realistic nature, it is also a very difficult film to watch.  We often see these types of stories as heartwarming and uplifting when they are watered-down by the national media, but these are real people that have real life struggles even after we all stop watching.

Jake Gyllenhaal is utterly amazing in this film and gives one of the best performances of the year.  His display of raw emotion and physical pain is really worth the price of admission alone.  The entire cast is worth noting, but Gyllenhaal proves once again that he’s one of the best actors of his generation.  David Gordon Green is somewhat of a mixed bag with his feature films, but he really pulls it off here.

Stronger is nothing like the movie Patriots Day from last year, so please don’t expect another USA vs. terrorism film.  Stronger is a film about tragedy and how it affects an individual and everyone around them after the dust has settled.  This is a film I’d recommend everyone to see.

Grade: A-

Stronger opens in theaters on Friday, September 22

You can follow Dustin Heller on Instagram @eatindywatchindie