Patriots Day

patriotsday-markwahlberg-marathonbannerTerrorists are despicable. They take lives or limbs and create chaos and fear, sometimes in support of twisted ideology, sometimes just for kicks, and always demonstrate a complete lack of humanity. Sensational as their actions are, what deserves recognition are not the acts themselves, but the responses by the terrorists’ targets.

Patriots Day revisits Boston’s response to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. It is a difficult watch but it has to be. We have to feel the weight of the loss in order to appreciate Bostonians’ courage in the face of a homegrown terrorist attack by two brothers who, from outward appearances, were just a couple of millenials trying to find their way (bizarrely, at least one apparently was a 9/11 truther).

Patriots Day provides a behind-the-scenes look at the events leading up to the bombings and then the hunt for these monsters who intended to strike Times Square next. They killed three people with their bombs and killed two more cops in the aftermath. Amidst the carnage, the police remain focused on bringing these suspects in alive, and it seems they might have succeeded in that endeavour but for the brothers’ lunacy.

Peter Berg and Mark Walhberg have turned these real life disaster movies (tragopics?) into big business for themselves, and Patriots Day improves on their formula from Deepwater Horizon.  Both movies take an arms’ length approach and do a good job of sticking to the facts. These characters are not perfect because they don’t need to be. Some, like Mark Wahlberg’s character, are composites. That is a bit weird when we are introduced to the real people at the end of the movie and the main character is missing, but in the middle of the crisis the character feels real and that’s what matters most. This movie feels real as well and is definitely worth watching.

I suspect even if Wahlberg’s character were real, he would not have given such a perfect off-the-cuff speech at the climax, but again, it works. It works because it captures how the people of Boston responded to this terrible event: not with hate or fear, but with determination, resolve, and strength. In the immortal words of David Ortiz (who appears in the film):

 

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15 thoughts on “Patriots Day

  1. The Album

    The Red Sox that year allowed the city to rally around them and #BostonStrong became a term of unity. There was a Bruins game either the day of or after where during the National Anthem everybody present belted the lyrics as loud as they could. There’s a video of it on YouTube. I don’t have any inclination to watch the film. But this was a nice review 👍🏻

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  2. Widdershins

    I wonder if the money spent making this would’ve been better spent making a documentary, where the real people showed up at the beginning of the piece (and thence throughout) rather than a footnote? In the hands of a good director it could be something great and just as riveting as this ‘fictionalised-yet-based-on-real-events’ account. I guess we’ll never know, because this is how Hollywood recasts history.

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  3. Jay

    I didn’t like that we lost track of the victims for the majority of the movie. I looked up the other movie that I was pretty sure was coming out about the same thing – it’s called Stronger, and it’s about a victim of the bombing who then helps them track down the terrorists.

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    1. Sean Post author

      You’re right about losing track of the victims. It would have been nice to have more contact with each person and maybe the movie’s scope is too broad in that respect. But at the same time I don’t think I would have wanted to cut anyone out who was in the film.

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  4. reocochran

    I am not a fan or realism in my movies, although I did admire Hacksaw Ridge and recent Silence in their original premise to feature interesting heroes. They both went too far in the violence and length. I felt Unbroken was the best in a few years of not being expected at every turn and although hard to watch it was well worth it!
    I may someday watch this one reviewed here but not for quite some time. 🙂

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  5. CineMuseFilms

    There are two movies happening in Patriots Day; one is brilliant, the other mediocre. The docu-drama is top shelf filming. The weak melodrama about the tantrum-prone Sgt Saunders undermines the seriousness of the story and blatantly exploitats the real heroes and victions.

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