To say a movie about the 2013 Boston Bombings filmed in the city of Boston with the real-life survivors would be a passion project for Mark Wahlberg is a bit of an understatement. When the Beantown native signed on to act and produce in the new release Patriots Day, he said in an interview with the Boston Globe:
“The wounds are far from healed, but I realized if the wrong type of person came in and made this, it could have turned out to be extremely gratuitous,”. “I knew a lot of the responsibility was going to be on my shoulders. But I pride myself on being able to go home and show my face, so I wanted to get it right, you know?”
Patriots Day is the second biopic to star Wahlberg in the last few months (the first being Deepwater Horizon). The story retells the week-long events of the Boston Bombings during Patriots Day (a state holiday in Massachusetts) when two radical Islamists attacked the Boston Marathon killing 4 people and severely injuring many others. The film begins with showing multiple perspectives of the important characters of the story. Many of them are going about their regular routine, the same way the people in the real-life bombing did. Wahlberg plays Boston Police Department, Sergeant Tommy Saunders, who is on the last day of his demotion and is sent to secure the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Meanwhile, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev would change the lives of an entire city.
Patriots Day wastes no time getting into the thick of things as the film chronicles over 100 hours of the ordeal itself. The film is a dedication to the police, first responders, and medical staff who puts in the hours to help the victims and stop the attackers from hurting more people. So being as accurate as possible to the real life story was very important to the filmmakers. This is the third straight film from director Peter Berg where he has worked with Mark Walberg based on a true story and he has seemed to have found his niche. The film tries to give a fly on the wall view of the events while taking some liberties with them as well. A difficult aspect to portraying on film is the politics behind the attack. From the justification of the terrorists as well as the thought process of FBI agents and police officers investigating the attack, there are going to be views and expressions in the film that you won’t agree with no matter which side of the aisle you are on. Peter Berg also said that he was cautious not to exploit the real-life victims of the story for profit but being that it is Hollywood, the dramatization is increased tenfold especially in the third act where the film resembles a war movie in an intense 10 minutes shootout. Another one of my biggest criticism is that there is a lot of unnecessary humor in the film as well. I understand wanting to keep your movie a little lighthearted to prevent your film from being a total drag but they are many times a laugh is forced and it takes you out of the experience because the bit doesn’t fit the overall tone of the film.
I can’t say that I enjoyed this movie as much as I enjoyed Deepwater Horizon but I’m not going to turn a blind eye to the work and the passion that went into bringing this story to life. The brutal reality of what these people went through is magnified with such powerful scenes like a police officer having to stand next to the body of a dead 8-year-old boy until the coroners arrive. With that said there are issues with the writing as well as the feeling of having too many characters to cover every aspect of the event. But overall, Patriots Day is a satisfying reflection on the strength of humanity and the will to fight and come together as Americans.
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