Boston is Strong Again in Reliable ‘Patriots Day’

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Average: 5 (1 vote) Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – In the context of history, and the way information is consumed these days, the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013 seems both like yesterday and a long time ago. Director Peter Berg’s “Patriots Day” is the first film account of that horrid week, and features Mark Wahlberg.

Wahlberg, along with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, are the unofficial show biz mayors of Boston, and inspired a wicked parody by Seth Meyers called “Boston Accents.” The subject matter of “Patriot Days” creates an immunity towards commentary on the Boston accents in the movie, but there are still a few moments that are reminders (seriously, download that sketch on YouTube). Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”) is a yeoman director who tells a straightforward story, and succeeds in re-creating the events of that week without too much hyperbole. It was a frightening time for Boston and the country, but the results of many people doing incredible work wrapped up the case quickly and effectively – the film is a tribute to them.

Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) is a Boston police homicide detective working on a suspension, and as part of his penance is assigned a uniform task (“I look like a crossing guard”) monitoring the finish line at the 2013 Boston Marathon. The infamous explosion occurs, and Tommy is right in the midst of it. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) is soon on the scene.

Officer Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) in ‘Patriots Day’
Photo credit: CBS Films

So begins the investigation of who did it, and the phone pictures and security camera images of the day are helpful in mobilizing the FBI, headed up by Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon), with oversight by Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach), and aided nearby through Watertown police officer Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons). It becomes apparent that it was two brothers who caused the bombings, Tamerian (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff) Tsaraev.

Wahlberg plays a Boston cop that is fictional, while the rest of the described cast above are real people involved in the week. It was a bit unbelievable to have Tommy be the guy who was everywhere, even outside his purview in Watertown, which gave the film a TV movie vibe. He represented “Boston Strong” and was the blue collar guy who wept and got angry, like many residents of the city and the country. But most people know there isn’t a “Forrest Gump” in true-life events like this, but movies tend strangely to go along with it.

Director Peter Berg is a ramrod storyteller, and likes moving the camera in different ways to get coverage on it, so there is a bit of style – especially in the use of the real footage of the day – that makes it more interesting that the usual take on “actual events.” Getting the right actors to fill the real life roles was key, and John Goodman, Michael Beach and especially Kevin Bacon add the proper serious/official investigating mode that emergencies require.

Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) of the FBI in ‘Patriots Day’
Photo credit: CBS Films

The villains, the bombers, are given enough attention to tell their stories, but the motives remain hazy. There remains a mystery as to the connection to larger source, even as the film give some time to that element. Many of the procedures of the chase, including the shooting of a campus cop (Jake Picking) and the victim of a car jacking (Jimmy O. Yang) are highlighted, filling in some key gaps in the capture of the perpetrators.

Love is a large incentive for tracking down the bombers – of city, country and the protection of both – and this is emphasized during the film. Many Boston residents have said that the movie is “too soon” after the events, but it’s never too soon to be reminded of the strength and love it took to get through the tragedy. It’s become an unfortunate backstory to the times in which we live.

”Patriots Day” opens everywhere on January 13th. Featuring Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Jake Picking, Michelle Monaghan, Jimmy O. Yang, Kevin Bacon, Themo Melikidze, Alex Wolff and Michael Beach. Screenplay by Peter Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer. Directed by Peter Berg. Rated “R” senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2017 Patrick McDonald,

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