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'Stronger' actor Jake Gyllenhaal is better than the movie

Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and shows us the full effects of Bauman’s trauma.

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Tatiana Maslany and Jake Gyllenhaal star in 'Stronger.'

Scott Garfield/Roadside Attractions/AP

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Jake Gyllenhaal is often better than the movies he appears in, and this is true once again in “Stronger,” in which he plays Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Gyllenhaal shows us the full effects of Bauman’s trauma; his agonizing, moment-by-moment rehabilitation is convincingly rendered. And Bauman’s resistance to the ways in which people, including his mother (Miranda Richardson), tried to prop him up as an inspirational icon are equally convincing.

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Director David Gordon Green, working from a script by John Pollono based on the bestselling memoir by Bauman and Bret Witter, stages some sequences between Bauman and his on-again-off-again girlfriend (a fine Tatiana Maslany) that have the grit of lived-in experience. But too much of this movie is a conventionally rendered gloss that, in its own way, also attempts to cast Bauman as an inspirational icon. He is, but we can see in Gyllenhaal’s looks of grief and panic the makings of the more complex movie this might have been. Grade: B- (Rated R for language throughout, some graphic injury images, and brief sexuality/nudity.)