Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan
'Patriots Day' should have ideally been titled 'Boston Strong' because that's what it's all about - the strength and resilience of the people of Boston who despite the gory aftermath of the hideous Boston Marathon Bombings on April 15, 2013, managed to recoup and regain the security and comfort of city life that was thrown asunder by two jihadi terrorists.
This film, the third collaboration between star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, has Wahlberg playing the role (fictitious) of suspended cop Sgt. Tommy Saunders, given humiliating assignments like manning the finish line of the Boston Marathon while his fellow Charlies go about doing the more satisfying police work. The film opens with Saunders making a drug bust, hurting his injured knee further and being pilloried/ribbed for it by his peers. Next we see him at the finish line in crowd control and boom...the first bomb goes off and then a second one, just when the lead marathoners edge on to the finish line. The rest of the movie details the investigations involving FBI and local cops and the manner in which the two culprits were eventually apprehended.
Three people were killed in the blasts and several hundreds were wounded and the unprecedented citywide manhunt after the catastrophe took place over the following week, a week when all of Boston was shut down. Saunders' involvement attaches the theme of personal redemption to the disaster movie prototype and doesn't feel all that right here. The real-life investigators and real-life Boston cops who did the actual work, I am sure have far more richer examples of heroism to show in their efforts.
Saunders is undoubtedly the focus of attention here but there are enough regular characters with important roles to play, lending teeth to this telling. Berg, who co-wrote the script with Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer, shifts away from Saunders' cribbing to showcase the morning of the marathon, as experienced by characters who invariably become victims of the dastardly act of terrorism. A young couple Jessica Kensky (Rachel Brosnahan) and Patrick Downes (Christopher O'Shea), Northeastern student Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang), MIT policeman Sean Collier (Jack Picking), Watertown police Sergeant Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons), and Saunders' wife (Michelle Monaghan) are all important enough players in the schema here. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) and his brother Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) are making their final preparations for the bombings in the small apartment that also houses Tamerlan's wife (Melissa Benoist) and their little girl. The tableau is laid out slowly underlined by Trent Reznor's implicit score and overlaid by aerial shots of the city of Boston readying up for the momentous morning. You can actually begin to feel the dread slowly creeping in as events collude and collide till the customized pressure cooker bomb goes burst. Berg is pretty good with the disaster event itself. He smartly incorporates audio breaks and visual halts to convey the feeling of time standing still at ground zero. The narrative pace and tempo is not exactly consistent but it does lead up to a situational flare-up that garners eyeballs. With Dzhokhar holing out in a boat following his unsuccessful attempt to board a train to New York and create more mayhem there, there's room for a tense finale that has the cops bumbling up a bit before they can gain control - enough to make the viewer feel that cops are human too!
Berg's chronicle of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent manhunt may mark time while it gathers steam but the tension and dread are there to be had and the eventual capture of the two terrorists restores faith in the guardians of the city. And that's what this film is really about – reinstalling hope that our protectors will come good come what may!
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