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Patriots Day – Movie Review

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Patriots Day – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films

Peter Berg’s evolution as a filmmaker has been fascinating to watch. His early film career made one think he would belong to the Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich club of Hollywood directors, specializing in massively budgeted special effects pictures aimed primarily at teenagers. However, he has lately carved a niche for himself by making realistic docudramas out of real life examples of American heroism. Patriots Day portrays many of the events that happened before, during and after the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 with such attention to detail, the film is able to seamlessly integrate actual archival footage. It is a testament to Berg’s skills that this dramatization of those April days in Boston never feels exploitative.

While Mark Wahlberg’s fictional police officer Tommy Saunders is the default main character in , the film gives proper time to everyone impacted or involved in the week’s events. The film jumps between its many participants in a way that never makes us lost. The proper sympathy is given to the victims and the bombers are properly portrayed as two young idiotic people who apparently had nothing better to do with their time. Berg and his co-writers Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer never attempt to try and figure out their motives for planting those bombs, because there likely wasn’t one. They just wanted to harm people for their own sick reasons.

The documentary style approach with which Peter Berg lends the film works in putting the audience in the middle of the events. The build-up to the bombs going off are terrifying as we wait what we know is going to happen. It’s a scary sequence that never sugarcoats the events and portrays them as realistically as possible. It would have been easy to suddenly turn Saunders into an action movie hero, but the film merely paints him as a regular cop trying to handle the situation the best way possible. Berg also gives us enough insight into what is going through the minds of the other key authorities involved in the investigation.

Berg’s directorial strength is keeping the heart pounding and Patriots Day continues that. While most people seeing this film will be familiar with the real events, there is still a nervousness, especially with the unpredictable nature of the two bombers. The infamous shoot-out between the bombers and policemen is not only a successful bit of pyrotechnics, but also a tribute to the bravery of the officers in the line of fire. One also begins to think about the Boston neighbourhoods who had to be on high alert and locked inside during this turmoil. Berg occasionally tries to deflate tension by throwing in one-liners and while some work, others merely distract from the more serious events surrounding the wisecracks.

Patriots Day had that thin line to walk, when depicting these events which are still fresh in our memories. However, Peter Berg manages to represent those scary days in a tasteful manner, while also understanding his duty as a filmmaker to make an engaging piece of cinema. It puts one in the shoes of the police and the victims who worked hard to live another day and make sure Boston returned from this traumatic week all the more stronger. When Berg decides to include interviews with the real people in the end, it’s something that could have come across as too sappy. However, it instead becomes an inspiring end to this story and shows why we cannot forget what happened and that we can defeat those who wish to do innocent people harm.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison