Review: ‘Boston’ documentary astutely covers the long, storied history of the city’s famous marathon

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The long, rich and, more recently, tragic history of the Boston Marathon is traced with involving detail and heart in director Jon Dunham’s inspiring documentary “Boston,” narrated by Beantown native Matt Damon.

The filmmaker, whose previous feature docs, 2007’s “Spirit of the Marathon” and its 2013 sequel, looked at foot races in, respectively, Chicago and Rome, turns his attention here to the world’s oldest and most prestigious annually-run marathon, which spans more than 26 miles from suburban Boston to the city’s downtown Boylston Street.

Dunham deftly combines a treasure trove of archival footage and photos, interviews with past Boston Marathon winners, participants, organizers and spectators; and a not-quite chronological recounting of the contest, from its 1897 start to the fatal, terror-related bombing in 2013 and the race’s powerful, rise-from-the-ashes return the following year.


En route, the compelling narrative covers the marathon’s changes and growth over time, including its international impact, inclusion of female runners and disabled racers, and the pivotal introduction of prize money. Jeff Beal’s orchestral score provides stirring support.

A bit of tightening, largely involving segues abroad to Australia, Japan and Kenya, would have helped the picture’s pacing.

But it’s the pride and strength of Boston’s leaders and citizens, as well as the marathon’s devoted contenders and planners that ultimately fuel this affecting portrait.



Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 54 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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