Directed by: Peter Berg
Written by: Peter Berg, Matt Cook & Joshua Zetumer
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Michelle Monaghan, J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon
April 15th, 2013. The day began as many a Patriot’s Day had before in Boston, Massachusetts – with a flurry excitement as many turned out to cheer on the marathon runners – but this event that usually brought the city together, would this day shake it to its very core. It is this day (and the subsequent days that follow) which make up the story of Peter Berg’s Patriot’s Day.
The film begins in a way you may not expect, opening with a scene which is funny. Yes, the film about the Boston Marathon bombing opens with a laugh, lulling the audience into a false sense of security. In fact, there are a number of scenes to start this story that simple depict the everyday life of Boston’s people – they work, they come home, they love, they fight – all is normal. And yet, knowing that this does not last makes these scenes even more cutting for the audience.
We join Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), a down on his luck cop with the Boston PD, fighting his way back from suspension one dull case at a time. He’s less than pleased when he finds out that he will work the finish line at the marathon, his final penance for whatever undisclosed act called for his suspension (though it’s safe to say from not-so-subtle hints it had something to do with drinking). Of course, he gets a hell of a lot more than he bargained for on the dull beat, when two bombs are detonated in the crowd. And thus, the real story begins.
A fast-paced and wholly immersive film, Patriot’s Day puts the audience at the very centre of all the action, ramping up the stress levels both with the action scenes and the scenes of investigation, while also splicing in scenes of comic relief, coming mostly from Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (JK Simmons), of Watertown PD, a small town that would become central to the events of the days following the marathon. And while they don’t skimp on the gore and the realism of people’s injuries (though at some points you really wish that they would) there are some issues with the story.
While the sheer amount of cuts between different people and places around the city was just a little stunting to the progression of the story, giving us a broader look at Boston and its inhabitants really showcases the human side of this tragedy – not the numbers of fatalities and casualties that are reported in the news, but the actual names and faces (though represented by actors) of those who suffered at the hand of this violence, and the life-changing injuries that they were left with, as well as the heroes who had a part (however small) of apprehending the perpetrators.
The question that many of us are left with, however, is – did this film really need to be made? And while, yes, it did an excellent job of reminding us that no matter what happens, humanity will always survive attacks such as these, there is the difficult issue of the attackers’ portrayal. While it is almost impossible for a attacker to be written in a way that the audience can sympathise with, we often find that in films such as this, we are at least given some sort of explanation of the motivation behind an attack. However, in Patriot’s Day, these people, are merely portrayed as remorseless killers, who are the embodiment of an almost caricature-like view of attackers such as these as people from a foreign land who simply hate America. And, unfortunately, this release comes at a time where immigration is a very prevalent issue in the US – the worry being, that seeing this story brought to life in this way, will not only serve as a reminder of a great tragedy, but also cement people’s beliefs that they may not be safe.
However, in no way does this aspect of the story undermine the overarching message of hope. In fact, at the very end of the film, we are treated to some messages from the real people behind the characters portrayed in this story – the mayor, the police officers and also the victims – and how they found strength from their city in a time when all seemed lost, and were able to pick themselves up and go on to do great things.
Patriot’s Day gets 3 small panics attacks out of 5 from me, and a forewarning to those of a nervous disposition.