Patriots Day

Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon & John Goodman
Synopsis: The story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists responsible.
Rating: 15 Duration: 133 minutes Release date: 26 June UK)

Making a film about any historical event is always tricky, particularly when said event is still so fresh in people’s minds. Questions will be raised and arguments will always be had about whether the film needed to be made. Patriots Day is no different, but suffers a little more than most because it is such a sensitive subject and because it is still very recent. Director Peter Berg has made an unofficial trilogy out of real-life disasters, the other two being Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon and now with Patriots Day he has concluded these stories in a way only he knows how, by waving the American flag proudly and casting Marky Mark.

The events of 15 April 2013 need little introduction. It was the day of the famous Boston Marathon and the day two brothers – Dzhokhar and Tamerian Tsarnaev carried out a plot and detonated two bombs only seconds apart as people were crossing the finish line in celebration. What happened then was truly horrific and anyone with a vague recollection of the news that day will no doubt remember the awful scenes being broadcast around the world. Patriots Day aims to recreate that day in painstaking detail and does so with calculated astuteness from director Peter Berg. His direction is measured and brings a sense of stinging reality throughout. Early scenes show various characters starting their day until those fateful events occur. It takes some time to get going and even though we all know where it is headed, Berg allows the events to take place naturally without forcing things.

The film itself is a confident take on the events of that day and what transpired after, but the film also has a lot to answer for in Mark Wahlberg’s Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders. His character being unique because he is entirely fictional. It represents something of a side-step from a film that has worked so hard to be true to events. Why cast someone who had no involvement in these events? Was it vanity? Wahlberg is a Boston native and stated a desire to do his people a justice by helping to tell this story. Or did he want to be the American hero, the everyday police officer who went above and beyond to make sure a pair of terrorists didn’t strike again? The argument can be made both ways and only those involved will know the true reason. Either way Wahlberg’s character does not take away from the film, his Saunders’ is a clear amalgamation of different characters and he essentially drives the plot without ever needing to be a part of it.

It’s the side characters who help make Patriots Day what it is. J.K. Simmons Watertown Police Sergeant, Kevin Bacon’s FBI Special Agent, Melissa Benoist as Tamerian’s wife and John Goodman’s Police Commissioner don’t take the headlines like Wahlberg, but the intricacies of their roles prove pivotal to the film. Seeing Bacon and Goodman get into heated debates about when best to release photos of the supposed terrorists stands as one the films best scenes. While Benoist being interrogated over her knowledge of what her husband was doing places events on a knife-edge. Again, Berg’s direction is key here and he draws muscular performances from all involved.

To its detriment, Patriots Day can be a little too, well, patriotic. I’m aware of the irony here, but for a film that wants to tell the truth it fails to grasp both sides of the story. This in no way should want to glorify or defend the actions of those who wish to do harm to others, but one cannot tell a true story without seeing things from both sides, no? With that, Patriots Day dominantly waves the flag whenever there is a chance and Berg clearly only sees one side of the story, rightly or wrongly. Patriots Day is a film that simply will not work for everyone, but remains a worthwhile watch no matter your standpoint.

Special features:

  • Boston Strong: True stories of courage
  • Researching the day

The DVD edition of Patriots Day contains two features. The first, Boston Strong, centres on several real life characters who had varying impacts on the events of and after the Boston bombing. The documentary style of talking heads is the right fit and has more honesty in their short time than the film manages over two hours. Again, like the film, the features are very patriotic and are hardly unique in the telling of the events that occurred, but they do benefit from being more real.

Researching the Day shifts the focus to director Peter Berg and the team of specialists he brought in to bring this story to the big screen. There are interviews with former FBI agents and other highly trained people who worked to create a realistic view or the film. It’s interesting, but never anything more and feels tacked on rather than being made for the disc especially.

Film: 3/5
Extras: 2/5


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