True meaning of ‘Boston Strong’ revealed in new Wahlberg film

True meaning of ‘Boston Strong’ revealed in new Wahlberg film

Peter Berg, the director and one of the writers of this film, seems drawn to tough, real subject matter. In a short time, he’s put out the war story “Lone Survivor,” “Deepwater Horizon” about the BP oil spill in the Gulf, and now this, which is a ripping, tense account of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.

Over a four-day period this national tragedy played out across the country hour by hour as the bombers were identified, prompting their flight from justice, leaving a trail of destruction and death behind as they tried to make their way to New York to detonate more bombs. Much of this is known, but Berg uses meticulous research over that period, gleaned from multiple sources, including actual footage of the bombings, to tell the story from multiple perspectives.

Regardless of how I feel about Berg’s choice to make these kinds of movies again and again, this is a compelling feature that does honor to those who were injured and killed, the first responders and the many agencies that came together to catch the bombers.

Mark Wahlberg (who as starred in all three of the above movies and gets a producer credit on this one) plays a composite character, cop Tommy Saunders, who is guarding the VIP stand near the finish line when the bombs go off. As with many others that day, instead of running away, he runs toward the bombsites and begins to secure the area.

While his story drives the movie, there are other story lines including the bombers (played by Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolfe), several of the injured bystanders (Rachel Brosnahan and Christopher O’Shea) and many of the law enforcement and government officials drawn into solving the crime as fast as they could.

John Goodman plays Boston police commissioner Ed Davis, who eventually clashed with FBI special agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) about the timing of the release of the photos of the bombers. J.K. Simmons and Michael Beach also take on the roles of real people with Simmons playing Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese from nearby Watertown where the bombers eventually staged the showdown in which one of them was killed. Beach plays the Massachusetts governor at the time, Deval Patrick, who made the unprecedented decision to shut down Boston until the bombers were caught.

Throughout the movie, Berg uses real footage, not only of many cell phone videos captured at the time of the bombing, but also of the security footage that tracked the bombers through Boston.  There are also other instances of real news footage woven in that give the film an almost documentary feel that makes it even more compelling.

If such movies are to be made, then better done by those like Berg, who handles the subject matter with respect and dignity. This takes no real political stand about terrorism, but there is a comforting monologue Wahlberg’s character offers to another cop late in the movie. And the ending introduces some of the real people forever changed by that day.


Just like its title, this is a tribute to the patriots of those four days in Boston. Some of this, like the immediate aftermath of the bombings, may be hard to watch, but by the end, the phrase “Boston Strong” will have new meaning.