Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2017; R for profanity throughout, some graphic injury images, and brief sexuality/nudity; Streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu
Best extra: “Faith, Hope & Love: Becoming Stronger”
THERE’S was talk that Jake Gyllenhaal might be a Best Actor contender for an Academy Award for his role in “Stronger.”
He didn’t make it. Timing could have hurt him. “Stronger,” the story about Jeff Bauman, a survivor of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, debuted in September, just long enough ago for members of the Academy to forget. It’s possible, too, that filmmakers neglected to push his name during the nomination period. Gyllenhaal’s overdue.
“Stronger,” directed by David Gordon Green ("George Washington," "Pineapple Express") and written by John Pollono (“This is Us”) adapted from the non-fiction book by Bauman and Bret Witter, is serious drama. As a portrayal of an everyday guy who loses his legs in a terrorist attack and learns to walk again, its emotional and physical realism is brutal.
Bauman is the kind of man most of us know, a well-intentioned nice guy, ready to help out a friend or family member. He has a job, but lives at home with his alcoholic mother, Patty, played by Miranda Richardson in an equally noteworthy performance. He loves sports and regularly parties with friends at the bar. On the day of the bombing, he heads out to cheer on ex-girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslany) in an effort to win her back.
His life changes in an instant.
What makes “Stronger” unique is how it delves into Bauman’s state of mind. He has more to deal with than learning how to use his new legs. His healing and physical therapy are excruciating to watch. Dealing with the expectations of friends and his family, particularly his mother, is worse. Bauman wants everyone to be happy, even at the cost of his own peace of mind. When it finally breaks him, we can’t help but feel it. Yes, he comes through his experience stronger, both physically and mentally, but some viewers may feel they’ve been through the wringer, too.
The 1080p transfer (2.39:1 aspect ratio) presents a cool, soft image – a stylistic choice from director Green and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (“12 Years a Slave”). Even scenes set at a baseball field and hockey ring look cool, although very bright and detailed. Choices enhance themes of dysfunction and struggle. Audio is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Emphasis is on dialogue and moments of silence, rather than effects. The bombing itself only gets a brief scene. Crowd scenes at the Marathon and sports events receive balanced immersion that puts viewers directly in the moment.
“Faith, Hope & Love: Becoming Stronger” is the only extra, a detailed making-of featuring interviews from Green, Gyllenhaal and Bauman. At 29 minutes, it covers casting and production detail, as well as archival footage and the events from Bauman himself.
— Kay Reynolds