Well, we all saw this coming, right? Deadline is reporting that Eric Johnson and Paul Tamasy, two of the writers behind David O. Russell’s “The Fighter” with Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, have optioned the screen rights to “Boston Strong,” a retelling of the events around the Boston Marathon bombings.
As the horrific events played on mostly live on TV, a comment often repeated was that the aftermath of the initial explosions and the manhunt for the bombers was like something out of a movie. When the ordeal ended with a gunfight in the streets Watertown, Massachusetts, it seemingly cemented the story’s cinematic future.
But with the horrific events of those five days in April so fresh in the country’s collective memory, how can the film version honor the tragedy instead of exploit it? There are a few recent examples of fact-based movies that handled touchy subjects with sensitivity and should be reference points for any film about this moment in history.
Paul Greengrass’ docudrama about the fourth crashed plane on 9/11 was the first movie to depict events from that day in a way that was honest but not manipulative or maudlin. The director cast unknowns and, in the case of FAA operations manager Ben Sliney, actual people from the events to portray a story that we never saw and one that people wanted to know more about.
“Zero Dark Thirty”
One of last year’s Best Picture nominees took a unique approach to another 9/11-related story that everyone wanted to know about. The capture of Osama bin Laden had the same obvious appeal for a film adaptation that the Boston Marathon bombings do, but the story of “Zero Dark Thirty” begins ten years before the events in Abbottabad and took the form of a police procedural. The search for the suspects makes for a thrilling story and focuses on the heroes that solved the mystery instead of the criminals.
It’s appropriate that the writers of the Mark Wahlberg-Christian Bale boxing movie have optioned the rights to this story, because that movie’s Massachusetts setting is a vital part to the story of the marathon bombing. The spirit of Boston as a character pulled people through a confusing and horrible tragedy, and has to play a role in any movie version.