Directed by Peter Berg
Starring Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, JK Simmons
Plot: After a series of bombings rock the Boston Marathon, the city begins a massive and desperate manhunt for the ones responsible for the attack. Chronicling the real life events of April 15, 2013.
**** I’ll be openly discussing real-life events liberally, so SPOILERS I guess****
Seeing the trailers for Patriot’s Day, I felt the same gut-feeling I’m sure many people have; too soon and totally unnecessary. It’s an event that’s still very much in people’s minds, so what could a film chronicling those events hope to accomplish? I had a similar first reaction to the 2006 film United 93, which told the story of the passengers abroad the doomed 9/11 flight who took down the plane before it could reach its intended target. That film proved to respectful in its real life story and Patriot’s Day achieves the same difficult task.
The film does not shy away from the horror of what happened and the scenes of the bombing are hard to watch. The chaos and carnage make you forget this is a something that happened on an American street and not on some distant war zone. The movie is then set at a blistering pace as the first responders pour in to help the victims, followed shortly by the law enforcement who begin the investigation into the attack. From here, a clear POV is sacrificed in favour of giving time to all the key players of the story. The cast fills these roles quite nicely with John Goodman, JK Simmons and Kevin Bacon showing why they’re old pros at this stuff.
While the stakes always feel appropriately high, I admire that this movie is nothing if not a story about Boston. We never expand to see what the bigger reaction is, other than a few news reports. Not being from Boston, I can’t speak to how accurately the city is captured, but I have to imagine the residents will be pleased with the depiction. How the city handled the attacks is continuously praised without robbing the city of its unique and well-recognized attitude. I also applaud the film’s dealing of the bombers. Instead of depicting them as evil, masterminds, they are instead selfish and clueless, killing for no real purpose no matter what they tell themselves.
While I can respect the film for all the above points, the movie often rubbed me the wrong way. I think it can easily come down to two factors; Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg. The duo has teamed up on two other projects about real-life tragedies, Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon and both left me similarly uncomfortable. Let’s start with Wahlberg. In this film, he is one of the few fictional characters, a police detective and Boston-native. I can understand wanting to get a street perspective to the investigation, but it comes off nothing more than Wahlberg wanting to do his blue-collar hero routine again. He pops up everywhere in the manhunt, strutting in like the Ambassador of Boston. He must have it in his contract that in every movie he has to tell a guy in a suit how it really is on the streets. Given Wahlberg’s extremely tasteless and disrespectful comments about the victims of 9/11, continuously putting himself out there as a real-life hero leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Thankfully, the second-half of the film focuses more on the actual heroes, but I caught myself rolling my eyes whenever Wahlberg popped up.
Berg also brings a fair share of baggage into the film. Forgetting his penchant for shaky-cam action scenes and catering to Wahlberg’s star power, his films often indulge jingoistic storytelling. It comes through here in more than one scene and it really has no part in this story. And by helming Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and now this, I have to start questioning why he makes these movies. While I liked Deepwater, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I liked it for the wrong reasons. Should a movie the deals with a real-life event in which people lost their lives be thrilling? I left this movie with similar questions, wondering exactly what Berg intended with this movie. Do we really need to relive these moments on the big screen? Do families have to see reenactments of their loved ones’ deaths?
However, I must reiterate that I found the film to be deeply respectful of the city of Boston and the victims of this attack. Whatever misgivings I have about why the film was made, I sincerely hope that anyone who was affected by these events can get something worthwhile out of the film.