The review of American Manhunt: watch out for the Boston Marathon, a three-episode docu-series available on Netflix which not only tells the story of the terrorist attack that terrorized Boston ten years ago, but also the commitment and will of the law enforcement to locate and apprehend the culprits.
An attack always brings with it a wave of terror. It is the very motivation behind his preparation: that of breaking into the everyday life of innocent civilians and cloaking their existence in blood, fear, irreparable trauma. But if a documentary born to tell the events that led to that detonation invests the viewer with the same anguish and sense of terror that one breathes there, then it means that this is a documentary done well.
As we will point out in this review of American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombingthe docu-series directed by Floyd Russ leaves no room for sighs of relief, or moments of recovery. It’s a manhunt that takes its viewer by the hand to throw him at the center of the story. The serial work (available on Netflix) thus goes beyond the search for historical meaning and the objectivity of narration: by revealing the mechanisms that lie behind the very making of a documentary (the audible questions of the interviewers to the interviewees; the session of the witnesses in front of the camera) it eliminates all every sign of dramatization, emphasizing the real scope, Machiavellian and terrorist matrix, at the basis of the story. What follows is a journey in apnea along three episodes of about an hour each, in which everything seems to stop – including heartbeats – leaving it to be only the sirens, the shots, the explosion of bombs and the screams of the wounded, invest the television screen.
American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing Plot
101 hours: here is the time analyzed, investigated and told by Floyd Russ with his American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing. Yes, because 101 hours separated the explosion of the two bombs and the capture of Džochar Carnaev, one of the two attackers (the other was his brother Tamerlan, who died during an ambush). Divided into three episodes (“White hat, black hat”; “The American dream”; “You can’t make a corpse talk”), the docu-series follows the operations of identifying those responsible for the attack, moving on to the real hunt for the man and their capture. A documentary built like an adrenaline-pumping film, developed on the strength of the memory of those who participated in the investigation, or found themselves innocent victims of the Carney brothers’ fatal passage.
Looks of sudden terror
Eyes don’t lie, and those immortalized by Floyd Russ in American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing they are gloomy looks, still veiled by that mantle of terror and fear, hope and courage. However, they are eyes on which the director decides never to linger, preferring a wider shot than the traditional narrow ones in moments of distressing tension lost on the wave of memories. In doing so, Russ avoids the specter of pietism, favoring a greater empathetic and emotional involvement on the part of a spectator already shaken and disoriented by the destructive scope of the videos shown to him just before.
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The one directed by Russ is much more than a recovery of the memorial significance of given events, but a reduplication of a genetic code based on anxiety and fear. Thus a perfect synchronization of feelings and emotions experienced on and off the screen is created: the eyes that look at the moving images live on the same substance as the gazes petrified by the tension of policemen and victims, journalists and police officers are made of. FBI in front of the camera. Roles are lost, essences mix, in a perpetual exchange of dormant emotions and traumas hidden in the drawer of memories. Playing on a dynamic montage, capable of adapting both to the rhythms and times of the narrated events, the Netflix docu-series is a roller coaster between horror and fear, hope and the rebirth of an entire city. A work built along the lines of an action film, where real life is at the center; a story in which the visual reconstruction of reality is entrusted only to a few scenes recreated with actors, while the rest is a collage of amateur and closed circuit films where the scope of events between captures and attacks, shootings and rebirths, is enclosed in the space of a television frame.
Bursts of revealing images
We live bombarded by images, and from the images the explosions of the bombs are now recovered, sounded and reviewed one, a hundred, a thousand times, so as to identify the hands that activated them, and the minds that built them. A direct dialogue of egalitarian exchanges, which allowed FBI and special forces agents to give a name and a face to the Boston bombers. But around this exchange a game of gazes is established that scrutinize and react, passing from the gesture of two brothers, to the warning of an entire community such as the Islamic and/or American one. Russ’s ability was therefore to include in his gallery of memories the testimonies not only of those who experienced those events on their own skin, but also of those who felt the repercussions of this work. From the Islamic community, to the residents of Bostonall are united by the director in a holistic picture of someone who has awakened from an American dream suddenly turned into a nightmare.
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Democratization of terror
Halfway between the nocturnal work of Michael Mann, and the psychological thriller of Denis Villeneuve and David Fincher, American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing it moves away from the direct memory that cinema has grafted into the viewer’s mind with the biopic Stronger, to broaden the scope of one’s discourse to a more universal level. From the pain of the single (Jeff Bauman in David Gordon Green’s film) we move on to that of many, united by the flashing of sirens in actions ready to illuminate the dark of the night between a manhunt and the search for the truth. A Caravaggio painting, American Manhuntpainted in shady, cold tones, such as the darkness of terror, and the darkness of the unknown, crossed by glimpses of dazzling lights, which blind, disturb, even illuminating the right path to follow.
Dosing in perfect parts testimonies and archival material, actor reconstructions, and television services, American Manhunt: the Boston Marathon bombing becomes the perfect restitution in docu-serial format of 101 hours of perpetual anxiety, between research and questions still left unresolved. Yes, because little has changed since that Boston marathon ten years ago, and with it our sense of fear and the prejudice of others has perhaps remained unchanged.
We conclude this review of American Manhunt: the Boston Marathon bombing by emphasizing how the docu-series available on Netflix lives on a sharing of that sense of anguish and terror experienced both on screen and outside the television space. The hunt for the two terrorists who covered the finish line in Boston with blood and fear comes back to life in three perpetually apnea episodes, where much is said and little is hidden.
Because we like it
- A photograph where the darkness is pierced by sudden lights that dazzle and disorient.
- The ability to have narrated real events with the suspense of an action movie.
- The choice to immortalize the witnesses during their stories at a safe distance, avoiding all sorts of silly and rhetorical pietism.
- The decision to limit the story to a few, but accurate, interviewees.
- In addition to the efforts of the agents, it would have been interesting to tell the effects on the daily life of those who fell victim to that attack.
- Finding yourself in front of the end credits to realize that the documentary is over.