Patriots Day

500 Days Of Film Reviews True Life Drama, Patriots Day, Starring Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons And Kevin Bacon

On 15 April 2013, two homemade bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The blast killed three people and injured hundreds of others - many losing limbs. 

 

Recreating these tragic events, Patriots Day also depicts the FBI investigation and dramatic manhunt for the two brothers - Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. 

 

Director Peter Berg shows how Boston responded to the attacks, revealing inspirational solidarity and resilience. 

Is It Any Good?

Both gripping and moving, Patriots Day treats its tragic subject matter with sensitivity and respect. The film begins by introducing a range of key characters. We meet Tommy Saunders (a composite character capably played by Mark Wahlberg), Commissioner Ed Davis (a typically commanding performance from John Goodman) and Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (powerfully portrayed by Kevin Bacon).

 

In addition, we meet some of the people caught up in the terrible events - including the incredible and inspirational Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky (Christopher O'Shea and Rachel Brosnahan).

 

Patriots Day also introduces us to the City of Boston itself - with cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler making effective use of a number of stunning aerial shots.

 

The excitement surrounding the Boston Marathon is portrayed so effectively (Berg’s film crew were allowed to film the setup of an actual Boston Marathon event and part of the race itself) that it is genuinely shocking when the first bomb explodes and heartbreaking chaos ensues.

 

Peter Berg makes us care about his characters and it is clear that he wants to do right by those whose experiences he recreates. As a result, while we see enough to appreciate the horror of the attacks, Patriots Day does not dwell on the many terrible injuries.

 

 

 

The attention to detail in Patriots Day is extremely impressive. Many members of the Boston community were involved in the movie's production, giving advice on set and helping to ensure the film's authenticity. Police extras were played by real policemen and other extras were portrayed by people (mainly from Boston) who experienced the tragedy first hand.

 

When it came to dramatizing the explosions, the film crew moved to a 1000ft film set. Again, the movie's attention to detail is remarkable. The first bomb went off outside a Marathon Sports shop. Berg built a replica store, staffed by actual employees during filming. In addition, Boston's Boylston Street was painstakingly recreated - down to the gum marks on the floor.

 

Supplementing the physical sets, Berg utilized CGI to fill in the rest of the City detail and also included video footage from the actual event.   

 

John Goodman as Commissioner Ed Davies
John Goodman as Commissioner Ed Davies

 

Chillingly portrayed by Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff in tension fueled scenes, the Tsarnaev brothers’ background and motivations are left largely underdeveloped. Berg chooses to focus on Boston’s reaction instead - showing us how the City came together to support the unprecedented manhunt. 

 

After a suspenseful car hijack, the brothers end up on the turf of Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (a lovely performance from J.K Simmons). Thus commences the (appropriately titled) battle of Watertown. Patriots Day is successful in recreating the ferocious scene, depicting local police (many of whom had never fired a gun) under intense gunfire.

 

 

The character of Tommy Saunders serves as a unifying device in Patriots Day. While the need for this composite character is understandable, his appearance at every key stage in the film borders on the ridiculous. However, the movie’s respectful attention to detail (and Wahlberg's engaging performance) make this minor misstep forgivable.

 

Patriots Day concludes, as many cinematic true stories do, with footage of the real people involved in the Boston Marathon bombing. Here (as in many other scenes) the film's overriding message is one of hope and love in the face of violence and hate. The stories of resilience, loss and survival are deeply moving and inspiring.  

Random Observations

 

Have you seen Patriots Day?

 

If you have, what did you think of Peter Berg's Film? Let me know by leaving me a comment in the box below!

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