Another gripping watch to add to the roster of Netflix true crime documentaries, American Manhunt benefits from a nuanced approach to the subject matter and range of voices exploring the horrifying crime it’s dealing with.
We review the Netflix true crime documentary series American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing.
American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing is another addition to Netflix’s roster of true crime documentaries with an, at times, brutally sobering account of the Boston Marathon Bombing of 2013.
It’s not only an exploration of the horrors of that day but also touches upon the mindset of America that still had the specter of 9/11 and the resulting War on Terror reverberating through its psyche.
American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing Review
At this stage, Netflix has really cornered the market in the genre of True Crime. Nearly every other week, a new limited series, usually made up of around three or four episodes, is released and generally tends to do very well with viewers with their sobering accounts of well-known and sometimes not so well known stories that touch upon the horrors of the world.
American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing explores in sobering detail the events of what was a genuinely horrible day for the city, but it also offers a stark reminder of where the American psyche was post 9/11, even a decade after the events of that day in 2001.
It segues from the events of the day itself into the eventual manhunt of the perpetrators, the inner politics of the investigation, and the differences of opinion — including the fateful release of photos of the suspects that will no doubt provoke some debate and questions amongst viewers — amongst the investigators and the emotional repercussions that came from the attack on the city.
Episode one details the lead-up to the event, including a surprisingly upbeat history of Boston itself, complete with obligated footage of John F. Kennedy and the festival air that comes from hosting one of the world’s most famous running events.
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That upbeat nature is soon replaced with fear, horror, and terror that director Floyd Russ conveys through footage captured on the day itself obtained from news crews and members of the public and paints a horrifying picture of a terrorist act.
Credit where credit is due for never falling into the realm of exploitation, but make no mistake, the footage is disturbing and harrowing.
What is most brilliant about the series is its approach of offering differing voices and viewpoints; participants in the marathon who were affected by the attack, the investigators and their difference of opinion in how to proceed, and the Islamic community of the city who regretfully had to contend with Islamophobia, their existence and religion once again linked to the acts of a brutal few.
The remaining episodes then go full tilt into exploring the manhunt for the suspects after their photos are leaked to the press, a move that was either an unfortunate mistake or a calculated move depending on how you read the reactions of those being interviewed, but it leads into a gripping account of worst fears realized as the attack spurns on a desperate, chaotic manhunt and a city desperate for closure.
Is American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing good or bad?
The genre of True Crime can either be compulsively brilliant or, at worst, exploitative, and a lot of its artistic success comes down to how its filmmakers approach the subject. American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing is very good at what it sets out to do.
It doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to genre, but it utilizes its filmmaking language to a brilliant and compulsively watchable degree.
Is American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing worth watching?
It’s worth a watch for true crime aficionados and those who want a short but compulsively gripping binge-watch.
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