Possible spoilers ahead!
Boston police officer Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) is on the last day of a semi-official suspension, his last assignment before returning to full duty is for him to help handle crowd control at the finish line at the annual Boston Marathon on Patriots Day. But everything changes when a pair of explosives are set off during the marathon. Countless people in attendance are injured, while others are dead.
Now its up to people like the FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon), Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), and Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach), to find those responsible, bring them to justice, and to try to calm a frightened city.
For the two years I was in art school, I walked by the Boston marathon finish line everyday. My classmates and I had lunch on Boylston Street most of the time, and the Copley square area is still one of my favorite spots in the city. And even though I no longer live in the Boston area, I will always consider it my home. So as you can imagine, the events of 2013 hit me hard, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about Hollywood making a movie just 4 years later. Thankfully, “Patriots Day” handled the bombings and the events that followed, with dignity, and respect.
This movie is the third film based on true events that director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg have worked together on, the others being “Lone Survivor” and last year’s “Deepwater Horizon.” Over the course of their collaborations, Berg and Wahlberg have learned what works and what doesn’t. More importantly, the duo always treat the subject matter with respect.
Instead of going with a documentary style or a “Cops” type movie, the filmmakers took more of a suspense/thriller approach. This allowed “Patriots Day” to keep the suspense and tension going throughout its running time. And even though we know the final outcome, there was plenty of suspense coming from not knowing when, or if, certain characters would collide with one another.
The film captured the terror and raw emotion of the events through fast-paced editing, and a captivating score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Although I do wish the movie had taken more time discussing when the governor temporarily shut down the city and what it took to accomplish that.
“Patriots Day” doesn’t have much in the way of character development, but this is one case where I don’t think its needed. Besides, the strong performances from a solid cast more than makes up for the lack of character development. Wahlberg, does a fine job playing the familiar tough guy/good guy that he’s played before.
It should be noted that Wahlberg’s character is a fictional one, but I think this was a smart move by the filmmakers. By using a fictional lead character, they can have him do all the traditional “movie” stuff that these type of movies usually need. This allows the characters based on real people to remain true to the events they lived through.
The supporting ensemble in “Patriots Day” is strong from top to bottom. John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, and Kevin Bacon all play important real-life people important to the film’s story. All three also get a moment or two to shine, especially Simmons who steals almost every scene he is in. And I must admit, they all had pretty decent Boston accents. I know its silly, but ever since Kevin Costner’s horrible accent in “Thirteen Days,” I’m critical of such things.
As I said earlier, the events of 2013 hit me hard, and I know I’m not alone in that. I’m also aware that for some this movie may be here too soon. But at the end of the day, “Patriots Day” is another solid film from Wahlberg and Berg, one that not only gives us an inside look at that fateful week, but also celebrates the great city of Boston.
“Patriots Day” final score: A-