On Patriots’ Day in April 2013, Boston, America and the world as a whole was rocked by the two bombs that went off during the city’s annual Marathon event. Images of blown off limbs, bloodied pavements and shell shocked bystanders flooded news outlets and the Internet. While people from around the globe watched on in shock, Boston police and the FBI needed to find answers and those responsible for the blasts.
Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) has been forced by Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) to stand right by the marathon finishing line as punishment for a previous falling out at work, so is right by the site of the first bomb when it’s detonated. Extremist brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze) have long fled the scene, leaving only their blown-up rucksacks to link them to the horrific crime.
Led by Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) the FBI quickly swoop onto the crime scene and establish within seconds that this was a terrorist attack. Setting up a command centre, the FBI along with local police begin a race against the clock to find out who planted the bombs and where the unknown suspects now are. People want answers, and it’s not long before officers begin to piece the puzzle together and the terrorist brothers’ plan begins to unravel.
Peter Berg’s movie, based on the book Boston Strong by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge, is engaging and absorbing, with the use of CCTV and phone footage, along with character’s names and job titles flashing up, making the Patriots Day at times feel more like a documentary than a narrative feature. The sense of tension and urgency is palpable, while the action scenes are gritty, bloody and realistic.
There’s an interesting sensation throughout as you watch what went on behind the headlines, with the movie filling in many of the blanks long forgotten about the aftermath. Despite some of the story being added for dramatic purposes, as a whole it feels genuine.
As well as the main plotline, subplots relating to the bombers are also woven in. These keep the movie from ever dragging and make the 133 minute run time fly by. Time is spent on secondary characters so you felt invested in them by the time they join the main story, like student Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang) and MIT patrol officer Sean Collier (Jake Picking).
Boston boy Wahlberg is at his best playing relatable characters, and he comes alive as the fictional hero cop Tommy. Supporting cast do a great job throughout, including an underused J.K. Simmons as Watertown (Greater Boston) Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese. It takes some time to get used to Goodman’s dramatic weight loss, but he also does well in the part and Wolff and newcomer Melikidze are convincing as the brainwashed brothers.
Amid the film’s serious message there are, surprisingly, laughs to be had. A particularly smile-inducing scene involved a uniformed cop shouting “Welcome to Watertown mother f**ker” during the shoot out with the Tsarnaev siblings.
It’s not all plain sailing, with a cheesy monologue delivered by Wahlberg a low point in the movie, but on the whole Patriot’s Day is a well made film that manages to be both enjoyable, informative and a fitting tribute to those that lost their lives that day.
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