Synopsis: An account of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists behind it.
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, Alex Wolff, Khandi Alexander, Melissa Benoist, Themo Melikidze
Director: Peter Berg
Running Length: 133 minutes
TMMM Score: (9/10)
Review: I can still vividly remember watching the manhunt unfold back in 2013 for the two men suspected of orchestrating the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Glued to the late night breaking news, I watched as police and FBI surrounded a boat suspected to be the hiding place of the last living suspect and held my breath along with the rest of the country. By now we know how things turned out but even going into Patriots Day with these facts, audiences are bound to be caught up once again in the true life tale of that fateful day in April and the men, women, and children whose lives were forever changed in an instant.
Based on several different sources and news accounts, Patriots Day is the second film released in 2016 surrounding a real-life event directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg. It was only back in late September the director and star teamed up for the underseen Deepwater Horizon which was a strong collaboration after first finding success in 2013’s excellent Lone Survivor. Berg (Battleship) and Wahlberg (The Gambler) have scored their highest marks yet with Patriots Day, an effective and authentic examination of the investigation surrounding the hours/days after the bombing.
Patriots’ Day, Boston’s state holiday to celebrate the first battles of the Revolutionary War, also marks the annual Boston Marathon and April 2013 started like any other day. People took their time to get out of bed, kiss their loved ones, and become a spectator or participant in the race, all the while never suspecting they will become targets for two radicalized brothers striking back at perceived injustices in Afghanistan and Iraq at the hands of U.S. officials.
Berg and cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler (Mr. Holmes) jump around the city for the first part of the day, getting time with Wahlberg and his wife (Michelle Monaghan, Pixels), watching the Tsarnaev brothers (Alex Wolff, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 and Themo Melikidze) prepare for their crime, and finding moments to capture with other civilians and law enforcement officials who will become major players once the bombing occurs. The lead-up to the devastation is taut but not fraught with clock watching tension and by the time it happens we’re a bit distracted and are caught off-guard much like everyone else was on that otherwise ordinary day. After that, the movie takes off like a rocket as Wahlberg and his men secure the site and watch as the FBI comes in and makes their own rules.
Though populated with many real characters, Wahlberg’s Sgt. Tommy Saunders is an amalgamation of several different Boston police officers that were involved. Wahlberg may be listed as the star but it’s not a “Mark Wahlberg Movie”, per se. Rather, it’s an ensemble drama that seemed to go out of fashion with the disaster pictures of the ‘70s that introduces us to no less than a dozen players we’ll eventually cross paths with as the movie unfolds.
For nearly an hour, Wahlberg hovers on the periphery of the action while the likes of Kevin Bacon (Friday the 13th), John Goodman (Love the Coopers), and J.K. Simmons (Zootopia) are activated and enter the story. I had forgotten many of the developments that happened during those desperate hours and learned a lot more about what happened behind the scenes as the bomb site was recreated to piece together the clues that led authorities to the brothers on that final fateful night. For all you small bladder people out there, be sure to visit the restroom before the final act or plan on holding it for the duration because the final hour of Patriots Day is a breathless cat and mouse game between the brothers on the run and the officers sniffing out their trail. There’s a well-staged shoot-out that rivals anything the OK Corral could throw at you and a real sense of the dangerously high stakes permeates every frame.
Wahlberg continues to carve out a better than decent track record with his performances and the Boston-bred actor invests himself totally in this role that obviously hits close to home. The rest of the supporting players are strong but special mention should be made to those involved in two of the most successful scenes in Patriots Day. As a student carjacked by the brothers, Jimmy O. Yang (The Internship) underplays his fear and visibly musters up the courage to break free from certain death. Then there’s an interrogation scene between the wife of Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Melissa Benoist, The Longest Ride) and a FBI Agent (Khandi Alexander) that’s alone worth the price of admission. I don’t think I blinked during this brief but highly effective sequence.
Ending with a somber but gracious visit with the real people featured in the movie, Berg and company hit all the right notes with Patriots Day. Like the previous two pictures they’ve made together, Berg and Wahlberg have shown a vested interest in bringing important tales of bravery/heroism to the screen with a reverential but not overly sentimental voice.