By Jack Dignan
In April of 2013, the city of Boston fell victim to a terrorist attack. During their annual Patriots Day marathon, a series of bombs went off, leaving a few dead and countless injured. It was a time of hardship and misery, but a time that allowed the city of Boston to come together and arise through this dark time. Many have understandably stated that it’s a little too soon to be telling this story, that Hollywood should wait. This is fair, although once you see the film and how powerful it can be, your opinion on that may change.
Patriots Day focuses in on Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), a police officer put in charge of security during the marathon. When the bombs go off, Tommy rushes to action, as does everyone at the event, trying to get the area contained and rescue as many people as he can. In the days that follow, we watch as he aids the FBI in tracking down the people behind the terrorist attack. But Tommy’s story, while the main focus, is just one of many. We also follow the attackers, played by Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze, as well as a humungous supporting cast of characters that includes Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), Sergeant Jeffery Pugliese (J.K. Simmons) and Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon), among others.
This is a film that’s determined to tell its true story with the utmost respect. It doesn’t just want to recount the events we’ve all heard on the news, it wants to delve deep into the minds of each of these individuals and showcase new perspectives on this tragedy. It’s three-dimensional; a completely legitimate retelling of the Boston Marathon bombings, even seamlessly integrating real life security footage into several scenes throughout, a technique that proved to be both powerful and extremely difficult to watch. The story told is real, making the situations that unfold all the more intense. It’s a highly impactful, extremely well executed true story that’s important, saddening and puts you on the edge of your seat.
One of the most fascinating things this film does is that it showcases the story from so many different angles. We get the side of the cops and the FBI, but we also get to look at the event from the bombers’ side of things and get an understanding of why they’re doing the things they’re doing. It doesn’t try to justify that what they did was the right thing to do, but it gives light to a new perspective that isn’t always talked about. It provides the character's own personal justification and reasoning behind their actions, and even though I don’t agree with the things they’re doing, it was certainly a new and important thing for this movie to do. It makes the film standout amongst other biopics about similar tragedies.
Not only that, but a lot of the runtime is also dedicated to supporting characters that don’t necessarily tie into anything for a long while. For a great deal of the first half, we are hanging out with minor characters of seemingly no importance, and yes, it drags. Their stories, for the most part, aren’t that exciting. They seem so distant to the main story at hand that they fail to excite. That is until they finally become relevant. It does something no other true story seems to do, and that’s give levity and backstory to the minor, but extremely important and plot-propelling events that happen late into the movie. I won’t spoil how everything ties in to the plot, but they all become worthwhile, and certain scenes wouldn’t be nearly as shocking or emotional if the buildup hadn’t been shown.
What really stands out amongst the crowd are the performances, and not just the lead performances, but also the performances of every single cast member. With Oscar nominations coming out soon, I wouldn’t be surprised if Patriots Day receives a few for acting. Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg need to team up more often, as they always bring the best out of each other. They’ve got three hits in a row, starting with Lone Survivor then Deepwater Horizon and now this. While Wahlberg’s performance is consistently brilliant, there’s one scene in particular that will bring tears to the eyes of all who watch it. To be fair, this entire movie was just me trying not to burst into uncontrollable crying for over two hours, but that one scene did stand out as being the most tear jerking of the lot.
To sum up, Patriots Day is one of the most emotionally impactful true stories 2016 (or 2017 for us Australians) has to offer. It’s a thrilling and fascinating recount that gives light to several perspectives, even if a lot of them feel a little too distant most of the time. Still, Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg have delivered once again.
3 1/2 Stars
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