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Review: Patriots Day

(L-r) Kevin Bacon, Mark Wahlberg and John Goodman star in CBS Films' PATRIOTS DAY

Boston is known for being a place with people who are hard to please when it comes to most things. That’s why making any movie about the attacks that occurred during the 2013 Boston Marathon will likely be a difficult road to navigate through for anyone who wants to try. With Patriots Day being the first official cinematic release about the subject, we may just learn how receptive the Boston audience will be in the future. Then again, this being of good quality and respectful will certainly help with whether or not people will be willing accept it.

Patriots Day offers up an account of the terrorist attacks that took place at the Boston Marathon in 2013. While the attacks took lives and injured people physically as well as emotionally, Boston and its surrounding areas proved to be too tough to unnerve. Because of this, what looked to be tragic, turned into a community demonstrating unity as an act of defiance while first responders and investigators throughout Massachusetts took part in a massive manhunt for those responsible.

This is a movie that is able to create a coherent story with the kind of energy you would expect from something directed by Peter Berg. Knowing he was directing something about the bombings that took place during the Boston Marathon did cause me to pause at first. However, after seeing it, I came to realize that he didn’t embellish and play around with the topic as much as I thought he might. With films based on actual events, you understand that this will happen to some degree, but you just don’t want them to get too carried away.

The reason behind me seeing this as being so important in this instance is because not only is Patriots Day about events that took place just a few years before its release, but there’s also always a part of filmmaking that should always strive for some level of authenticity while remaining respectful. There are plenty of people who want to learn and maybe even experience (not literally) what took place in real life situations like this, so being as believable as possible should be something you should aim for. That’s especially true when dealing with a crowd as difficult to please as this one.

When examining how the movie is actually structured, the momentum that is building is felt by the audience. During the scenes before the attacks, Berg has an intriguing way of going about the tasks at hand. Much of this seems legit as a fun day for many turns into a jarring and tragic life story in a matter of seconds. From then on, there’s another point where building momentum takes place as the manhunt for the suspects begins and proceeds to ramp up. This style by Berg carries over well as the tension manages to be consistent and endures throughout even though we know how it ends.

The only real issue that I have with Patriots Day was the use of Mark Wahlberg. Instead him starring as one character who’s a real person, he portrays a composite character. When speaking of accuracy, his character doing all of this stuff is clearly a work of fiction. While he’s not starring as the kind of hero who repeatedly saves the day, he’s a guy who is somehow everywhere as he tends to appear at far too many significant moments in the film. This makes things feel a bit odd since the likelihood of this happening is undoubtedly implausible in any situation in reality or otherwise.

In actuality, it’s easy to see Wahlberg’s character as being irrelevant outside of giving us someone to follow during these events. I can understand why many filmmakers believe that using composite characters is important, but they almost never work in scenarios like this and are rarely ever necessary. People don’t need to follow one character in order to assist in guiding them through a story. Giving us multiple views from people who were actively involved during these kinds of situations would have been enough.

Even with that being problematic, Patriots Day is able to give viewers an inside look at one of the most insane and illogical periods in recent Boston history. Showing all of it from the various angles like they did gives us an opportunity to find out more about the thought processes of the people who were directly involved leading up to these intense moments. If they would have made this the focus at all times, we’re talking about a movie that’s of even better quality than what we actually get in the end.

Rating: R

Director: Peter Berg

Mark Wahlberg
John Goodman
J.K. Simmons
Kevin Bacon
Michael Beach
Michelle Monaghan
Alex Wolff
Temo Melikidze
Jimmy O. Yang
Melissa Benoist
Christoper O’Shea
Rachel Brosnahan
Khandi Alexander
David Ortiz

Film Length: 133 minutes

Release Dates:
December 21, 2016 (Limited)
January 13, 2017 (Wide)

Distributor: CBS Films

  • 7/10
    Score - 7/10
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