Being a journalist from Northeastern Connecticut and a fan of Boston sports the 2013 bombings of the Boston Marathon touched me on a very personal level. When I heard that a film would be made about the events it immediately became a must see for me as I wanted so much to see the emotion, fear, and aftermath of the bombings play out on screen in a way that showed an entire country how a city persevered and came together in the wake of a truly heinous act of violence. So naturally I came into “Patriots Day” with already high expectations and I can happily say I was not disappointed.
“Patriots Day” revolves around the events of April 15th, 2013 with the Tsarnaev brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan, performed one of the worst terror attackx on U.S. soil since 9/11. Along the way we see several stories of real life survivors of the bombing play out as well as the response from real life law enforcement agencies, save for Mark Wahlberg’s Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders who is an original character added in the film that kind of ties everything together. John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Vincent Curatola, Michelle Monaghan, and Kevin Bacon help round out a cast of well defined and intense characters as the Boston Police and FBI come together to solve the bombings, ending in standoffs with the infamous brothers and a depiction of the manhunt that captured the attention of a nation.
Before I get to the one big negative of the film, I can’t stress enough how effective the film is at portraying the bombings as they happen and the subsequent investigation, chase, and shootout that results from the incident. There is plenty of buildup to the eventual acts of violence and when the bombs actually go off it’s actually rather difficult to watch. The film splices reenacted and archived footage together to put the viewer right in the middle of the action and chaos and we see as victims are tended too and confusion, frustration, and emotion set in. This is all followed by an intense investigation that makes up the second act of the film before the final showdown with the Tsarnaev brothers brings the story full circle.
There’s a lot this film has to be proud of. One of its most impressive aspects for me is it handles the stigma of Islamic terrorism with class as officials work to determine who, for sure, is behind the bombings and the impact the event had on victims, police, and families are all handled with an amazing sense of delicacy and respect. As impressive as the film is however it has one major flaw…it’s star, Mark Wahlburg who doesn’t necessarily do a bad job in his portrayal of a fictional sergeant, but his role in the film seems very out of place in a drama filled with real-life figures and stories. Wahlburg is made the central character of the film, including helping the FBI by putting his memory of the bombing locations to the test, but the fact that his character never really existed make it harder to relate to the emotion and frustration he feels in the wake of the bombings. It’s not that Wahlburg is not believable by any means. As a Bostonian himself you can tell his heart is truly into his role, but the film would have been much better served with Wahlburg in an actual real-life character’s shoes.
On a more positive note, “Patriot’s Day” balances its dramatic and, in some ways, disturbing subject matter with a few moments of levity. From remarks made by the real life characters to even a few throwaway gags involving the Tsarnaev brothers serious moments are well balanced with more light-hearted ones that are well placed so as not to strip any scenes of their emotional impact, but allows the viewers a chance to breath and remember that while the film is based on true events they are, in fact, watching a movie.
“Patriots Day” may be hard to watch for some and for others it may be a film they stray from due to its dramatic subject matter. However, take it from someone who lives in New England and experienced not only the emotion the tragedy brought, but the unity that followed first hand, “Patriots Day” truly serves as a good source of closure for an event that, even on film, remains a difficult experience in all the right ways. Handling a real-life tragedy with class and respect, “Patriots Day” is a rare treat that manages to bring out the best, and worst, of its subject matter without going too over the top and, for the most part, lives up to expectations by perfectly capturing everything that came out of that fateful day in 2013.