Patriots Day

Patriots Day

In Theatres: 
Jan 13, 2017
Running Time: 
133 minutes

Peter Berg is no stranger to turning to real world disasters for inspiration for his films. Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, and now Patriots Day all take a specific catastrophe or event and adapt it into dramatic story that weaves elements of truth into a cinematic narrative. Coincidentally, all three also star Mark Wahlberg. Berg has the disaster biopic genre down pat, and with Patriot’s Day he’s now three for three. Simply no one does it better than him.


The film focuses around the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the ensuing city-wide manhunt that followed. At its center is Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), a Boston Police Department Sergeant who is on duty at the finish line and witnesses firsthand the tragic events as they unfold across the city, and while chaos and fear take hold, an even great sense of unity and pride pushes every member of the community to find the ones responsible.


“Boston Strong” was the slogan that emanated from the series of events that day, and it’s what is at the heart of Patriots Day. While Tommy is the police officer who happens to be involved in every step of the process, from the initial bombing to the shootout in Watertown and final capture in the boat, it’s the people of Boston itself who are the real stars. Newlyweds Jessica Kensky (Rachel Brosnahan) and Patrick Downes (Christopher O'Shea) have their story told of how they went to go watch the race and ended up right in the middle of the explosion and losing legs as a result. There’s also Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang) who was simply working and minding his own business when bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff) hijack his car and hold him captive. Or MIT Officer Sean Collier (Jake Picking) who fatefully lost his life when he wouldn’t give up his firearm to Dzhokar. The film intertwines all these people’s stories into the main narrative, and does a great job of devoting adequate screen time to each.


No one feels shoehorned in as you get to learn about each of the characters before things get chaotic. Berg does an excellent job at making you care about what happens to the people on screen by providing windows into their normal lives, the Tsarnaev brothers included, so when the events unfold you feel like even more is on the line. The intensity of Patriots Day is further ramped up by the fact that Berg uses real security footage spliced between shots. It’s one thing to see a dramatic reenactment of the bombings, but seeing the actual reaction footage from that day is a haunting reminder that there was nothing cinematic about what happened.


The performances are fantastic; Wahlberg’s especially. At one point right after the bombings he finally has a moment to catch his breathe and he simply breaks down telling his wife Carol (Michelle Monaghan) what happened. It’s a powerful moment and really shows what Walhberg’s capable of when paired with a director like Berg.


As devastating the bombings were, the film is equally uplifting. As the title suggests, it captures the patriotic spirit that brought Boston and the rest of the country together. Patriots Day does a great job at capturing this horrific moment in our nation’s recent history and retelling it without being disrespectful. It’s tense, intimate, and dramatic. It’s exactly what we’ve come to expect out of Peter Berg.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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