Rated R. Running Time: 2 hours 13 min. Our contents
Ratings: Violence 4; Language 2; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.”
Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) and his fellow cops in Boston and the surrounding area need not worry about the backlash that is troubling so many of their profession in other cities around the country. They are the ones who not only “pray for the peace” of their city, but actively work to preserve and restore it as well. After the terrible bomb explosions during on April 15, 2013 during the Boston Marathon, they join forces with the FBI to do just that. Director Peter Berg’s documentary style film, employing much of the time hand-held cameras is as exciting as any synthetic crime drama you are likely to see.
In this “true story” we are introduced to Tommy and his wife Carol (Michelle Monaghan) as he gets ready for security duty at the finishing line of the Marathon. His chief complaint is the knee that he has injured that night kicking down a door and capturing a thug, and that he has wear a “clown outfit,” one of those bright yellow vests that make him standout in the crowd. We also are given glimpses of the home-grown terrorists Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) and Jahar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff), Tamerlan’s wife, a white Muslim convert Katherine Russell (Melissa Benoist) and their two little daughters. Around the city, we see many others getting ready to run or to view the race, one of them being the student Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang) talking with his parents back in China about his new car. Little does he know that soon he will become a hero.
Even though we know that there will be two explosions, the mood is tense as we watch the two brothers move among the crowd and plant their backpacks containing the pressure cookers stuffed with explosives, nails and other small metal objects meant to be murderous shrapnel. Despite his injured knee, Tommy rushes toward the sites, stopping to give aid to the wounded and calling on his phone for ambulances. The quick shots of the bleeding victims are shocking, but the quick responses of police and medics are heartening, as are those of fast-acting surgeons and nurses in the hospitals.
There follows immediately the complicated task of finding out how and who perpetrated the deed. This becomes a fascinating police procedural sequence of brilliant sleuthing, revealing how useful security cameras can be to law enforcers. FBI agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) and Boston police commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) are quickly on the scene, as well as the Boston Mayor and the Governor of the state. When discovers pieces of the shrapnel, he immediately calls it a Federal crime, and thus assumes jurisdiction. Within a few hours, he has set up a replica of the street in a huge warehouse. Agents have gathered up all the debris in bags which they then remove and place along the chalk-marked “street.” All the shops have been marked along the street. Tommy, with his familiarity of the street, walks with DesLauriers, identifying the stores. As he names each one technicians sitting at monitors call up the store’s monitor and scan the images for anyone looking suspicious. They discover one brother because at the moment of an explosion he is the only one looking away from the blast. The other killer they identify because of clips in which both brothers are walking together. Because of their caps, they call one “white hat” and the other “black at.”
Once they compile a significant number of photos comes the argument over whether or not to release them to the public. Agent DesLauriers wants to wait because it might alert the brothers too soon, and Police Commissioner Ed Davis believes that his citizens can help find their location. Tommy sides with the Commissioner, until DesLauriers reluctantly agrees.
Now the film becomes a chase film, the brothers deciding that they must leave town and plant bombs elsewhere. This involves Watertown Police Chief Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons), who eventually actually wrestle with one of the brothers. Sadly, MIT campus cop Sean Collier (Jake Picking) will lose his life when the brothers come up to his squad car and try to steal his gun. Shortly after this Dun Meng will be taken hostage by the brothers but manage at a gas station to escape. Thanks to his 911 call, the brother’s location is almost pinpointed. When the police catch up to them, the exchange of fire turns the quiet neighborhood into a war zone, the brothers tossing bombs at the cops. Jahar manages to escape, running over the body of his brother in the process, and the film climaxes in what has become the most famous of all backyard boats in the country.
Fittingly, the last part of the film is a series of shots and photos of the real characters, with the film dedicated to the police and other first-responders. The filmmakers do little editorializing regarding Muslims and terrorism. They do not have to, this film being a fine tribute to both the law enforcement officers and the civilians who made “Boston Proud” by their prompt and brave acts during the hundred or so hours following the blasts—all that is except for a few. Besides the terrorists and the wife who shows no remorse or emotion over what the brothers had done, there is a group of one of the brother’s fellow college students gathered in his room. Searching through his things for some weed, they discover bomb-making materials, but, even though they watch the news unfolding on TV, they never call the authorities about this. Deservedly they receive jail sentences for obstruction of justice.
Director Peter Berg’s film unfolds like a documentary, information about the number of hours before and after the blasts appearing in a lower corner of the screen. If his intention was to make viewers proud of the ways in which Bostonians responded to the horror and chaos of that day, he certainly succeeds. Everyone who sees will join the “Boston Proud” circle. The bad guys score a short victory, but out of the results of their twisted hatred springs a multitude of courageous and loving acts.
This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the Feb. 2017 issue of VP.