Review: Patriots Day


We live in a world fueled by anger. And anger breeds hate.  PATRIOTS DAY, the latest collaboration between actor Mark Wahlberg and writer/director Peter Berg could easily focus on the worst of us; in telling the story of the Boston Marathon bombing, terrorism and fear and evil could easily be at the center of the narrative.

But these two frequent film-partners have given us a celebration of their city, the people who live there, and the positive power of the human spirit.

Wahlberg plays fictional cop, Tommy Saunders, who’s been punished to finish-line detail to finally expunge his discipline from a recent incident where he went a little rogue.  While on this routine assignment, two Islamic men drop their backpacks which happen to be filled with explosives.

We all watched in horror as the events unfolded in 2013; we relive much of that as Berg incorporates actual surveillance footage and does his best to bring a sense of realism to this thriller.  He succeeds.  He has a way of building tension throughout the film that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.

Also featured in the film are superstars John Goodman as the Police Commissioner and Kevin Bacon as the FBI Special Agent in Charge.  Not only are there enough physical resemblances between the actors and the real-life men they portray, but they both do a nice job capturing the spirit of these heroes with their speech and mannerisms.  It’s not over the top but it works nicely.

Some of the best scenes focus on the bombers themselves; the older brother comes off as an unstable, angry jihadist.  His younger brother, though, is as American as can be. He loves marijuana, girls, and video games.  But he is equally dangerous. It’s unsettling to see just how powerful misguided passion can be.

We also get a glimpse into the lives of some of the victims of the bombing.  We learn about the young Chinese immigrant who was kidnapped by the suspects.  We see the friends of the bombers, the wife of the older brother, and more.  All throughout this remarkable film, we see demonstrations of love.  Yes, there are incredible acts of bravery and some terrifying and disturbing moments.

But the focus is love.  Love of a city.  Love for others.  It’s a genuine celebration and a wonderful reframing of a tragic event.  Persevere.  Never give up.  Be strong.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I’m not sure I could have heard a better message at the movies than this.

Writer(s): Peter Berg, Matt Cook, and Joshua Zetumer
Director(s): Peter Berg
Notable Actor(s): Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons

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