PATRIOT’S DAY (USA/15A/133mins)
Directed by Peter Berg. Starring Mark Wahlberg, J.K. Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, Melissa Benoist.
THE PLOT: On April 15th 2013, two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring hundreds of others. In the immediate aftermath, as families are separated and chaos reigns, the manhunt for those responsible – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) began.
THE VERDICT: Based on the true story of the Boston Marathon bombings, and released less than four years after the actual event, Patriot’s Day is a film that is sometimes skilful, often muddled, and unsure of who its target audience is.
Mark Wahlberg leads the cast as Boston PD officer Tommy Saunders, and carries on his career making turn as playing the down to earth every man, whose shoulders carry the story. Wahlberg is fine in the role, but we have seen him do this before. Wahlberg is joined by J.K. Simmons as Sgt Jeffrey Pugliese – who makes easy work of the only comedic moments in the film – Michelle Monaghan, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, Rachel Brosnahan, Christopher O’Shea, Jimmy O. Yang, Melissa Benoist – who almost manages to shake off her most famous role as Supergirl – Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze. Some of the cast of the film have more to do than others, and some do better than others, but as a whole, this is an impressive cast, which is sometimes held back by the messy way in which the story is told.
Peter Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer’s screenplay is an amalgamation of two scripts, and although the joins are not clearly on show here, there is often too much going on for this incredible true story to flow properly. As well as the police story as the massive manhunt for the suspects gets under way, the film has to contend with the story from the Tsarnaev brothers’ point of view as well as from the perspectives of families separated at the bombing site, a long back story for the man whose car the Tsarnaevs hijacked, the MIT officer killed and the personal story of Tommy Saunders. Of course this is a far reaching story, with many thousands of people affected, but it feels as though Berg, Cook and Zetumer were apprehensive about not telling every inch of the story – perhaps because the film was made too soon? – and so left all story strands in, making Patriot’s Day a messy and meandering tale, which should have been tense and gripping.
As director, Peter Berg excels in ramping up tension and keeping the audience on the edge of their seats, but precious little of this talent is on display here. There are two sequences which show off the director’s skills, but these soon fizzle out, leaving Patriot’s Day feeling long and drawn out. As well as this, the cast of the film is an impressive one, but many great actors are underused, including J.K. Simmons, John Goodman and Melissa Benoist.
In all, ‘Patriot’s Day ‘is a film that has been made far too soon after the events that inspired it, and although the blatant flag waving can be forgiven, there is little excuse for a meandering and messy film that is less tense than living through the time when the bombings and subsequent manhunt took place. As well as this, it is unclear who ‘Patriot’s Day’ was made for, and there is a feeling throughout the film that all of this was too soon, to the detriment of any potential future storytelling. A documentary on the subject could have been a lot more satisfactory, and a lot less drawn out.
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    The spirit of Boston comes to the fore in Patriots Day. It’s a moving tribute to the city, its people and law enforcement and emergency personnel in the wake of the tragic Boston Marathon bombing which killed three people and maimed and injured hundreds of others on 15th April 2013.

    Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) has a reputation as a hothead but gets the job done, as we discover all too well in the opening sequence. The next day, he’s on patrol at the finish line of the famed Boston Marathon, America’s oldest marathon and a national holiday in Massachusetts. Police Commissioner Ed (John Goodman) is on site with him. At 2:50pm, a bomb is detonated at the finish line, maiming many bystanders including Jessica (Rachel Brosnahan) and her husband Patrick (Christopher O’Shea), while killing three others. A second explosion follows a few seconds later down the street. FBI Agent DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) arrives on the scene and labels it as terrorism. The bombers, brothers Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) soon find themselves the subject of a city-wide manhunt. With Boston on the verge of a lockdown, they head to New York with more bombs…

    Director Peter Berg re-teams with Wahlberg for the third time, for another true-life story that is their best film yet. While Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon had their moments of gung-ho, everyday heroism in the face of overwhelming odds, Patriots Days is a more measured affair. It takes a crow’s eye view of the bombing and the intense few days that followed. Berg’s commitment to realism here is admirable and commendable, showing the bombing from different angles and then later showing how important this footage is to Tommy and the investigation team in identifying the suspects. It’s not played for numbing shock value, with only fleeting glimpses of bloody injuries and the chaotic aftermath that resulted. Berg is more interested in unity, in showing how people bond together in trying times to find justice rather than revenge. Michael Bay might deliver this with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but Berg is a more toned-down director who emphasises character and performance. He even manages this amid a superb, stand-out shoot-out sequence in the neighbouring Watertown.

    While the story is mostly anchored around Wahlberg’s sturdy Boston cop, this is very much an ensemble film where everyone gets their moment to shine. A sub-plot involving a young Chinese man initially seems sentimental but soon becomes vitally important in the manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers. They too aren’t painted in typical bad-guy fashion, with their own mis-guided motivations driving them to kill. An interrogation scene involving Tamerlan’s wife Katherine (Melissa Benoist) is a highlight, with the interrogator modulating her questioning to uneasy effect. Wringing answers out won’t be that easy. While the story may be familiar from news coverage, Berg ties all the plot elements together to fashion a kinetic, propulsive thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

    Of course, the question of whether it’s too soon comes up. It’s been less than 4 years since the Boston Marathon Bombing, but United 93 followed 9/11 in a similar timeframe. This reviewer doesn’t feel it’s too soon at all. If anything, the timing is just right. It’s a story of hope and a city and its people coming together… in a time when America is falling apart under a highly controversial and divisive President who is widening America’s wounds rather than healing them. Kudos to Berg as well for spending several minutes at the end of the film with the real personnel. Another director would just feature photos and some captions. Patriots Day is a solid, thrilling, touching tribute that comes highly recommended. ****