Written By Jacob Chimilar (Letterboxd: Sweetlows)
Not too long before watching this, I watched the HBO Documentary "Marathon: The Patriot's Day Bombing". It did an excellent job bringing the harsh reality of the bombing to life with images and video of the scene. After though it mostly focused on a select number of people who's lives were changed and how they deal with their new reality. It was a nice way to frame it and I did get misty eyed a few times but it was a bit too much of a drag for my taste.
This film was the opposite. It focused solely on the bombers, officers, and the few people who start of as seemingly nobodies and who's lives intersected with those two elements. The execution was excellent, even if the real life horror of the bombing aftermath in Marathon isn't nearly as visceral in this film. I can say though that I overall liked this film more than the documentary. That is not usually the case for me, but the man hunt and detective work makes for a better movie in my opinion than spending all that time with the victims. If someone could cut together this film with the interviews you'd have the ultimate cut of a real life tragedy.
Unlike Peter Berg's other film Deepwater Horizon (mini review) this is a much more grounded human effort. There are no heroes, just a city working together to take down some bad men with a lot of fire power. The casting wasn't anything special. It felt like a run of the mill A list cast playing real life people. No one person really owned a role. I think I would have preferred this to be a more unknown cast handling the events to help suspend disbelief because the two actors playing the bombers weren't known to me and allowed me to connect them more closely with the real life counterparts.
The direction has a grit, run and gun style to it that we see often now in films going for realism. Nothing really seems to have changed storywise, not too many liberties in terms of what happened although the investigation was mostly new to me so it is hard to say just how close some things were in that respect. The film is interspersed with security footage, of which I think a good bit of it is the real thing as they look like the ones from "Marathon". The music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross was fantastic as usual. Providing a pulsing score that builds tension effectively and the pace allows the film to zip along while keeping the tension high.
I don't think this film sets out to cash in on the victims of the tragedy, everyone gets their dues by the end and some even give a brief interview, including a couple also in "Marathon". It is really just more of the story we know well dramatized. The action is very intense, the investigation is interesting and watching the story from the bombers point of view provides a real impact when you watch it. Instead of being these ghosts that you catch glimpses of, you are there with them as they make their moves and that makes the stakes that much higher and urges you to want the police to catch them that much faster. It is certainly worth a watch and is a better than the average true crime story.