Unfortunately, terrorist attacks are something which have become more common and are therefore also part of movies. They are usually based on real events and give the viewer a sense of hope and patriotism, in which certain individuals are always named heroes. After Patriots Day, Stronger is the second film about the attack on the Boston marathon. Yet this film approaches this terrible event from a different point of view.
Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) works for the meat department at Walmart. He is passionate about baseball and is convinced that he has to watch his team in a certain way because they will lose otherwise. He has break up/make up relationship with Erin (Tatiana Maslany), who is going to participate in the Boston marathon. Although they are no longer together at that moment, Jeff decides to encourage her and ends up standing at the spot where one of the bombs explodes. He loses both his lower legs and has to start a long journey of rehabilitation. It is a very difficult period, but he is labeled as a hero (and seen as the face of this event), something he doesn’t think he is. It is a role he does not really want, while his family sees it as an opportunity for publicity (and success). Erin seems to be the only one who understands Jeff and she is the one that can protect him.
That approach makes Stronger stand out as it is not a typical film within the genre. It shows that when you are seen as a hero by others, you might not experience it like that yourself. Jeff just told the authorities what he saw, something he just thought was important. He doesn’t understand why he is invited to sway flags or to appear in TV programs. This is made convincingly clear thanks to a strong cast. Gyllenhaal plays someone who is not perfect (even sometimes insufferable) and tries to keep everyone happy, even though he is struggling with his new reality. It should also be noted that the special effects that are used to show his amputated legs are so seamless that you are completely convinced it is real. Also the character that Tatiana Maslany plays is someone you sympathize with because she feels so real. The attack itself initially isn’t shown, which I personally thought was a great decision. It was only unfortunate that later in the film all the gruesome details are shown, which I did not think was necessary. Nevertheless, Stronger is a good film that tackles this type of story differently and shows that a hero is just a label that we stick on someone so that we can feel good about something, even if that person doesn’t really want it.