‘American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing’ Review: A Terrific Retelling Of A Gruesome Event

No one in this world does not know about the terrorist attack that struck Boston on the day of the Boston City Marathon in the year 2013. A terrorist attack happened on American soil for the first time since 2001. Lives were lost, and many would remember the extensive manhunt that took place to catch the perpetrators. All of this remains like a vivid memory in the minds of the people. We only know what was projected to us through various television news channels, but many are not aware of the people involved in the investigation team that cracked the case within a few days of the attack. What went on behind the scenes of the crime, and how did they manage to get hold of the people who were behind the attacks?


Directed by Floyd Russ, “American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing” begins with footage of the marathon that took place in 2013 on Patriot’s Day. It is one of the oldest and most popular marathons in the United States of America and the entire city goes into celebration mode on the day of the run. Nationwide media, too, makes sure to cover the run, and that proves how popular this run is for the country. The marathon usually happens in the spring, which makes the weather bearable for people to come out and enjoy the event in full swing. The documentary speakers were Billy Evans, a Boston Marathon regular who is also a police officer in the Boston Police Department; Kevin McWatters, another regular runner, and his girlfriend Karen, who was at the marathon to cheer him on. Accompanied by her is Krystle Campbell, a friend of hers who also joined to cheer Kevin on. The marathon began like any other sports event with utmost cheer, happiness, and laughter, and people all over were posting a lot about it on social media because the Facebook craze had just about reached its peak. It was common to post a lot of photos and videos on social media, and with the advent of smartphones like iPhones and Android phones, it was easy to locate people just by using photos.

The marathon was something everyone looked forward to, but a few hours into the marathon, one bomb went off near the finish line while the other went off near a restaurant that was a few meters away from the finish. The two back-to-back blasts created havoc and a chaotic situation. With plenty of spectators present along with the runners, the whole scene went into a panic mode where people were going haywire, almost leading to a stampede-like situation. The authorities quickly got the situation under control. The speakers would include EMT Janell Jimenez, Commissioner Ed Davis, Rick DesLauriers from the FBI, and Carmen Ortiz, US Attorney from the state of Massachusetts, speak in detail about the frenzy that happened on the day of the attack. As the investigation into the attack began as soon as the news of the attack broke, the police, FBI, and FBI cybercrime division took advantage of the smartphones, social media footage, the photos that people took with their digital cameras, and CCTV footage outside all the establishments on the track. The citizens were also asked to submit all the photos they had that they thought would help the police narrow down their search to locate the suspect; that would be a great help.


With all the information in hand, the police narrowed it down to a photograph that showed the image of a bag kept at the spot where the explosion happened. Combining the images with the hours of footage that they have of people; the police and the FBI conclude and locate two men who are suspected of having placed the bags containing pressure cooker bombs that they made at home on the spot of the explosion. With law enforcement narrowing in on two suspected bombers, one wearing a white hat and the other wearing a black hat, the police and FBI were not sure if they should release the photos to the media and public so that they would help them locate the men they wanted to arrest and question. Such division of opinion led to the police learning of the leak that might happen from the media side of the suspects. Before the media could create a frenzy by releasing the photographs of the suspects, the police and the FBI finally decided to release the photos of the suspects. What happens when the facial identities of the men are finally revealed by law enforcement? Will it serve them well, or will they pay a high price for letting the suspects also know that they are being hunted?

“American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing” is one of the well-made documentary mini-series that dives deep into the case in hand, which is the gruesome bombing that killed three people and injured at least 281 in total. The makers are in no mood to sugarcoat any aspect of this event. It talks in detail about what went into making this investigation steadfast and quick so that none of the suspects made it out of the city. There is an emphasis on how social media had become a phenomenon from that year on, and it helped in getting plenty of leads that helped investigative officers get into the white hat and black hat-wearing men, who turned out to be the bombers themselves. The documentary is not here to make the police and the FBI out to be heroes, but as people who made mistakes and who had disagreements internally regarding many decisions they took. It is refreshing to watch how the investigating officers agree on the fact that there were mistakes on their end as well, but they recovered quickly to concentrate only on getting the suspects arrested. The footage provided to discuss in detail what led them to nail down the two suspects is well done. The narrators too, were given enough time to talk about how they felt in that situation and how they narrowed down the decision they made, which eventually helped them.


“American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing” give us enough details on islamophobia amongst the people and the media and how Muslims have been projected as villains since 9/11. There are speakers, including the imam and an acquaintance of the accused, who speak in detail about how their lives changed and how the perception of the people around them changed after the Twin Towers attack. Even though they have lived their lives in America for years, they were tried as outsiders. The media’s role in spreading islamophobia was dealt with because the moment the attack happened, the first person to be questioned and made a suspect was a Saudi-based Arab who was in Boston at that moment and faced the heat for the attack. The media as well did not stop from cornering the Muslims living in the country, even after the police let the city know that the attack was premeditated and that there was no need to corner a particular community.

The brief history of bombers and their relation to the Chechen rebellion against the Russians—all of this and more have been spoken about in detail through this documentary series for the viewers to understand what ideology led to the bombers carrying out the ghastly act. The journalist in the documentary does not at any cost justify the act of terrorism; they just end up finding out what made the men become extremists, even though they have lived all their lives in America.


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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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