By Phillip Guy Ellis (Northampton, England)
Star – Mark Wahlberg
Genre – Drama/Cinema/History
Run Time – 2hr 13 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – U.S.A
Awards – 2 Wins & 3 Nominations
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A recent trend in an increasingly non creative Hollywood (apart from big budget action comic book movies every summer) is to make action dramas about very recent actual traumatic events, Mark Wahlberg, here, the go to guy for them. To me, making movies about the Boston Marathon bomb, the Deepwater Horizon oilrig fire and that hero pilot on the Hudson River is just too soon. It’s almost like Hollywood wants to claim these American events to grow the legend over the reality of what happened. We all know lawyers bury most of the gnarly truth to protect both the villains and the heroes and so these films somewhat hollow. You need to wait twenty or so years to allow the truth to seep out like a good wine maturing for them to emotionally work. Apollo 13 was brilliant because a lot of us youngsters knew nothing of this incredible story. We all know the Boston bombing story in the world of 24 hour news. We have no choice but to get involved and be scared about it all. Its $45million budget dragged back just $50 million and hints at a similar apathy for this genre.
Director Peter Berg (The Kingdom (2007), Hancock (2008) and Battleship 2012) also has recent history with this type of biopic movie and also bought us Lone Survivor (2013) and Deepwater Horizon (2016), also alongside Mark Wahlberg, the Boston actor also in Berg’s Mile 22 (2018), four straight movies together. The patriotic appeal is obvious to both and all four movies pretty solid but because these events are quite recent and picked over on all the news channels and documentaries there is no real mystery to them as a cinema experience. They have to be made in a certain objective way.
Mark Wahlberg as Boston Police Department Sergeant Tommy Saunders
John Goodman as Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis
J. K. Simmons as Watertown Police Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese
Vincent Curatola as Mayor of Boston Thomas Menino
Michelle Monaghan as Carol Saunders, Tommy’s wife and registered nurse
Kevin Bacon as Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Boston
Alex Wolff as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Themo Melikidze as Tamerlan Tsarnaev
Michael Beach as Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick
James Colby as Boston Police Superintendent William Evans
Jake Picking as MIT Officer Sean Collier
Melissa Benoist as Katherine Russell, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife
Jimmy O. Yang as Dun Meng
Annie Wersching as FBI Agent Rebecca in the FBI’s Boston field office
Rachel Brosnahan as Jessica Kensky
Christopher O’Shea as Patrick Downes
Its April 15, 2013, marathon day in Boston, America’s second biggest race to New York underway on a beautiful sunny spring day. Boston PD Officer Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) has recently been suspended and busted down to the ranks for various misdemeanors and in uniform at the finish line on crowd control duties as the sun begins to rise and shadows get shorter.
Brothers Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) are also on their way to the finish line, the plan to detonate two homemade bombs on the sidewalk amongst the crowd. The explosions shatter the event as a young couple Patrick Downes (Christopher O’Shea) and Jessica Kensky (Rachel Brosnahan) are seriously injured and taken to separate hospitals, where they are both required to have their legs amputated. A family man, Steve Woolfenden (Chris Brown), is blown twenty feet from his young son, unable to see his fate in the bloodied pushchair, both taken to a safe location by Saunders.
After the pandemonium dies down and the emergency services do a heroic job to keep the fatality numbers very low the manhunt begins for the bombers, no evidence of suicide debris. FBI agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) is assigned to investigate the terrorist attacks alongside Boston police commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) and Watertown police sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J. K. Simmons) on the ground.
The FBI review footage of the bombing and identify Dzhokhar and Tamerlan as suspects, but DesLauriers is reluctant to release their pictures to the public without further evidence until he is 100% sure. But his hand is forced when the pictures are leaked to the media as the fearful city goes into lockdown with door-to-door searches. These guys have more bombs and looking for new targets.
Attempting to lie low, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan kill an MIT security officer (Jake Picking) and then carjack student Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang), driving them around in total fear as the boys rant about America and Islam. They want to go to New York to kill again.
The fact that Berg takes no real side here makes the film pretty meaningless and it becomes a patriotic civic tribute. He doesn’t give the Muslim bomber lads a rough ride and the cops and FBI reaction to them hardly realistic. In fact Wahlberg’s demoted cop is the most flawed person presented here, his Tommy Saunders character actually a composite of people involved on the day, which makes him slightly irritating as he pops up everywhere.
Even though we know most of the terrible story on that day its tense as we build up to the explosion in the first half of the film and meet the main protagonists, before and after. The young Korean business guy Dun Meng’s heroic roll is filed out more here and clearly an act that saved many lives in Boston and beyond. The shootout with the bombers is a bit over the top and dramatized for the film but in real life with those homemade bombs flying around probably was that frantic.
Wahlberg is a Boston boy, of course, and didn’t even read the script as he knew he would do it and they knew he would be asked first and so add a few million to the final gross. That sort of sums up the sort of film it is. It’s a lot like Sully with Tom Hanks and Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center in that they don’t make the film you really want to see but still enjoy it all the same. The rest of the cast are predictable and not stretched. As I say I would have liked more blame in the film piled on the two moron Muslim bombers who clearly target white Americans, an aspect never explored in the War on Terror. But that aside it did the job and surprisingly entertaining for what it is.
IMDb.com – 7.4 /10.0 (62.245votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 81% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 69 % critic’s approval
London Evening Standard – ‘It’s not suspenseful so much as commemorative and even, in paying tribute to the resilient spirit of Boston and all of those caught up in this attack, celebratory. It’s a kind of civic tribute’.
The Guardian – ‘The strong narrative pulse overrides the irritation of Wahlberg’s blue-collar alpha-saint’.
Independent – ‘The first half hour of Patriots Day is riveting’.
The Mail – ‘… the nationalism that prevails on Patriot’s Day dulls its premise, but prevails thanks to the mixture of darkness and the importance of fraternal union in difficult times’.
The Sun – ‘It shows that when society is knocked down, it unites. That single important theme is never lost throughout the duration of the film, and for that (along with some terrific performances and realistic look at the bombings), the movie is a success.