The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath are viewed through the eyes of (fictional) veteran city cop Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) in director Peter Berg's respectful drama. Saunders is on duty when the two bombs explode at the finishing line, killing three people, then at the street shoot-out with the two brothers responsible and lastly when the younger sibling is arrested following a city-wide manhunt. Taut and technically adept, Berg avoids political point-scoring and, instead, celebrates the resilience of the city and its citizens.
In April 2013 a pair of lone wolf terrorist brothers detonated two homemade bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring several hundreds more.
The killers went on to shoot dead a policeman, kidnap a man in his car and have a shootout with officers in a city suburb during which one of the brothers was killed but the other fled, only to be quickly captured.
Director Peter Berg (reteaming with Wahlberg after Deepwater Horizon) brings his customary technical flair to this efficient dramatisation of the incident with the events as they unfold through the eyes of veteran Boston cop Sgt Tommy Saunders (Wahlberg), not a real character but a conflation of several officers who witnessed the outrage.
The story jumps among survivors (all showing an admirable lack of rancour), first aiders and investigators (FBI, CIA and police) with everyman Saunders providing the flesh and blood focus as audiences are guided through the intricacies of the post-blast operation led by FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon).
The cold-eyed protagonists - Chechen-American Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) and his controlling sibling Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) - are clinically delineated as a pair of self-radicalised jihadist psychopaths, the latter revealed as a wife-beating, drug-dealing, porn-consuming thug who's about as Muslim as Father Ted.
Berg doesn't shy away from unpalatable truths - the police operation to capture the brothers was more Keystone Cops than Boston PD (Dzhokhar was able to flee a sealed off street and was only captured when an alert resident realised someone was hiding in his boat).
Nevertheless, the real hero of this level-headed movie emerges as the City of Boston and its residents, particularly Chinese app designer Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang), whose calmness after he was carjacked by the Tsarnaevs indirectly led to their capture.