Peter Berg’s Patriots Day tells the true story of the Boston Marathon bombing and the investigation that followed in 2013. Mark Wahlberg’ character, Tommy Saunders, is a fictitious character but it is based on an amalgamation of several real people who were there. But the film is about his redemption and how the bombing brought out the best by those who were there. Some people have complained that Mark Wahlberg’s character takes away from the actual heroism of others and that Boston is the real hero, not one man. Point taken. To be honest, there is not one time where I thought that the Tommy Saunders character detracted from the message the filmmakers were going for. Patriots Day is an otherwise compelling film that will break your heart, make you cry and furious all at the same time.
Patriots Day is the third film in a series of true events brought to life. The first one being Lone Survivor from 2013 about a Seal team sent on a reconnaissance mission to identify a Taliban leader. It went horribly wrong and only Marcus Luttrell managed to survive. Earlier last year Deepwater Horizon was released telling the story of the BP oil rig that exploded in the Gulf off the coast of New Orleans in 2010. Now, comes Patriots Day and as is the case with the other films, Peter Berg does a tremendous job of connecting the human elements to tragedy. He does not trivialize their suffering but understands it and wants the world to know that out of chaos, death and suffering, the best of humanity almost always wins. I don’t know what his politics are, but he has amazing respect for our brave military, police and the average heroes that rise to the occasion. That is a rare find in Hollywood.
Berg also has co-written the script for Patriots Day along with Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer and they have created a film that speaks of duty, honor and an iron will to find those responsible for a truly cowardly and horrific terrorist attack in Boston. They simply let the story unfold, taking their time and never losing the idea of how much suffering two murdering scumbags caused, but not overplaying the drama, either. It does not deal that much with the politics, although it is hinted at, the filmmakers are smart enough to know that something like this transcends politics. Almost every other character, with the exception of Mark Wahlberg’s Tommy Saunders, was a real character in the bombing and when you have A-list actors like John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, Michelle Monaghan, J.K. Simmons and Michael Beach you have a story that rarely goes wrong.
The film starts in the wee morning hours of the Boston Marathon and keeps going up until the last “suspect” was finally caught. There are lots of intersecting stories with characters that we get to know so we connect with their plight. Yet, the film never seems bogged down with an overabundance of detail and Tobias Schliessler’s cinematography is as beautiful as it is shockingly graphic (These two bombs killed three and maimed hundreds). The gore is not simply shown for the sake of showing gore. Schliessler is able to get his point across and still be respectful to those who were killed and lost limbs. I was also impressed with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score that adds a real level of despair, at first but resonates with hope by the film’s conclusion. Mark Wahlberg is excellent as a loudmouth tough guy who speaks his mind, but is also able to go home and collapse into his wife’s arms a temporarily broken man after what he has seen.
Some people might think it is too soon for a movie like Patriots Day. I mean, this only happened three years ago. Some stories wait decades before they are told; centuries, even. But Patriots Day is a raw, unflinching look at a dark day in American history and the true heroism and strength that brought a city from its knees to its feet, once again. This is a story that needed to be told and it found the right messenger in Peter Berg. The final ten minutes or so of Patriots Day is dedicated to the real people that were there that day from victims to law enforcement and a special speech from Boston Red Sox baseball player, David Ortiz. It alone is worth the price of admission so stick around.
Patriots Day – ****1/2 out of 5
Patriots Day – Rated R for extreme gore, language, violence and terror
Patriots Day – Run time is 133 minutes.
Patriots Day is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations.