The Hollywoodification of recent American history continues with this dramatisation of the Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent hunt for the terrorists behind the attacks.
It starts off promisingly, following a number of Bostonians as they make plans to watch the annual race on their day off. The lead up to the atrocity itself is superbly paced and full of well-judged tension. The immediate aftermath, too – a dead child, a forlorn foot – is chilling.
But the film loses its way, falling into cliched crime thriller territory, when it chooses to focus on the police investigation over the experience of ordinary citizens.
There’s no doubt that the police sergeant and FBI special agent – played here by Mark Wahlberg, Boston personified, and Kevin Bacon, Bacon personified – were extraordinarily skilled and courageous in their mission to bring the suspects to justice. However, at times, the fist-pumping patriotism coupled with shootouts worthy of an 80s action movie, leave a sour taste.
There are also instances where American officials eschew civil liberties – the suspect’s wife is denied legal counsel and Boston is effectively shut down under martial law – yet whether the film wants us to approve of this behaviour or not is unclear.
It closes with actual testimony from survivors that is genuinely moving, and I couldn’t help feeling that, in this instance, the film might have been better off as a documentary.