A subject that makes me a little uncomfortable is this trend of Hollywood producers clamoring to make tragic world events into feature films. Terrorist attacks, tragic natural disasters and other brutalities are snatched up by studios within weeks of their happening, turned around and presented to the masses within three years. This means you can expect a Paris attacks film and an Orlando nightclub shooting movie within the next couple years. For this review, we focus on the Boston Marathon bombing and the first of two films on the subject, Patriots Day. It’s easy to say my tense trepidation was high heading in.
The film is made into a multi-character and multi-storyline structure, mostly because the script was a mix of two separate projects. At the head of it all is Tommy Saunders, played by Mark Wahlberg, a composite character set up to be a high ranking but brash sergeant, a Bostonian through and through, respected by his colleagues and no-nonsense when it comes to his superiors. Given point on the police presence at the finish line of the marathon, Saunders is front and center when the bombs go off and leads the Boston Police side of the subsequent manhunt, which we see from the two bombers point of view as well. With all these intersecting characters in Patriots Day, we get a large mosaic of the dramatized events that happened behind the scenes of an investigation we watched unfold on news channels and sites.
Having just tackled a true story in Deepwater Horizon, also starring Mark Wahlberg, I was wondering what Peter Berg’s approach to this film would be as the oil drilling disaster film was a bit underwhelming. I was happy to find that Berg’s style seemed to fit the multi-directional nature of the script. Coupled with a very moody score from Academy Award-winning composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the movie came off as an intriguing thriller even though we know the final outcome of this true story.
Of all the actors that show up in Patriots Day, I really found Mark Wahlberg the most distracting with his tailored role obviously suited for him, although his acting was fine. Deeper character actors like John Goodman as Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis or J.K. Simmons doing some supporting work as Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese of the Waterton Police, where the final showdown happened, give the story a better air of authenticity, rather than a blockbuster star’s vehicle. Patriots Day definitely has its fair share of faults and Hollywood gloss but it has more things working in its favor as far as the production value and direction go but after the credits roll are we really going to want to see this story trotted out again for the viewing public? 3/5