365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

24Jan/170

Patriots Day (2016)

Too soon? Money grabber? These are two fair questions to ask about the timing of Peter Berg's (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor) 2016 Patriots Day. The movie is based on the April 15, 2013, Boston City Marathon bombing, an event that killed three people and wounded hundreds of others. It might seem like it's too soon for a movie studio to be capitalizing on the tragic events of that day. For many, the event is still fresh in the minds. When I saw the trailer for this movie for the first time, my tendency was to agree. But after seeing this movie, I have changed my mind and instead will go with the mindset that if you're going to make a movie out of a tragic event such as the Boston City Marathon bombing, you better get it right. And I'll be the first to say that Berg and all those associated with this movie did, in fact, get this right. It was a respectful movie that looked at the incident from a variety of angles. And while I have not researched fact versus fiction yet, I am going to give Patriots Day the benefit of the doubt and say that it checked its facts before production. I do know that the lead character Seargent Tommy Sanders (Mark Wahlberg - The Fighter, Daddy's Home) is not an actual character, but, instead, is a composite of various officers in the Boston Police Department. I'm lukewarm on whether I like this or not I like this idea. As you watch this film, you'll quickly learn that Tommy has to be fictional because there is just no way one person can be in every single important situation in the film. It makes Tommy out to be a singular hero. I understand the Hollywood aspect, but I also understand paying homage to a true story. I think I would have preferred each character of the Boston Police department to be more accurately portrayed, but with already an abundance of characters, I could see how that could take away from the effective storytelling of the film.

The film takes place over the course of about five days. Really it begins with the morning of the marathon and ends with the apprehension of the final of the second of the two bombers. However, in order to establish a couple of the characters, we actually start the night before the day of the marathon where we meet Tommy and Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman - Flight, 10 Cloverfield Lane). Tommy is a well-respected officer who has recently found himself in some hot water. As a final act of attrition, Davis informs him that he'll be working the finish line at the Boston Marathon in the morning. Tommy has injured his knee when we meet him while trying to break down the door of the apartment of a suspected criminal. The limp becomes an unneeded ailment and further hinders our ability to believe he is able to do everything he is able to do as a singular character in the movie. And of course, Tommy has to be played like Wahlberg. I'm a fan of Wahlberg, but when he dominates the first ten minutes of so many of his films (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor, Rock Star, Invincible, The Fighter, The Gambler, The Happening, Planet of the Apes, The Perfect Storm, and others, we know he's going to not just dominate the screen, but he's going to be a hero by the time the movie ends. And there is no reason to believe that Patriots Day is going to be any different. And it's not. However...there are long stretches of this movie when Wahlberg is on screen at all. Berg really does a great job of focusing on so many of the other characters and their stories, including that of the two bombers. We get to see more of their story than we do that of many of the villains in movies with premises similar to Patriots Day.

The race itself wasn't much of a focus in itself. I felt like there would be more about the race just based on the previews. We are introduced to a number of players in the game very early on and we have no idea who some of them are or what sort of role they will play in the film. Ironically, we aren't introduced to any of the runners. We know that some of the runners were part of the more than 260 people who were wounded and treated at more than two dozen hospitals in the Boston area, but we never get to know any of them. The victims that we learn about were mostly spectators, including a couple named Jessica Kensky (Rachel Brosnahan) and Patrick Downes (Christopher O'Shea), who each lost a lower limb in the explosion. Kensky actually lost her second leg later as well. I wasn't sure why they were as much of the focus when there were so many other victims. However, it all tied together at the end. And also, Berg couldn't tell every story. The movie would have been ten hours long. As I'll mention quite frequently on here, he got it right, just as he's gotten it right in so many of the other movies he directed.

Some other key players that we learn about in addition to Tommy, Commissioner Davis, Jessica, and Patrick are Tommy's wife Carol (Michelle Monaghan - Gone Baby Gone, Source Code), a Chinese student named Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yan) who was studying at MIT and trying to meet her girls in his new city and country, Boston Police Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons - Whiplash, Juno), Boston Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach - F/X's Sons of Anarchy, NBC's Third Watch), Officer Sean Collier (Jake Picking), FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon - Mystic River, Murder in the First), and bombers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze). We learn about each of these people on a personal level. We learn about their backgrounds and their drives. Often it feels like there are too many characters, but, again, Berg is masterful at bringing these characters to the screen at the right time. We get the human component of so many of those involved with this story.

There's not much to say about this movie that you don't already know. This event is still so fresh in our memory. What you might not have remembered was the number of people killed (probably lower than you think) and the number of people injured (probably higher than you think). For whatever reason, I also thought Tamerlan was killed much more quickly than he was and Dzhokhar was captured more quickly than he was. I also didn't know the city of Boston was closed down for 100 hours. I remember thinking that the whole situation ended faster than it actually did. What I did appreciate was how quickly the command center was set up, how Agent DesLauriers really took charge with the investigation, identifying the situation as terrorism instantly and then refusing to release the identifications of the two men until they were absolutely certain they had the right guys. He remained cool, calm, and collected in the most intense of situations. Like many others, he was an unsung hero. "Boston Strong" was also a primary theme yet for as much as they said it, I didn't feel it as much as I thought. I did appreciate the technology used to identify the suspects. I thought the manhunt and the shootouts were very well done. I don't like shootouts for the sake of shootouts, but if the event is true, I appreciate them as much as anyone. And according to http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/patriots-day/, most of this seems very true to what actually happened.

To repeat, Berg did a nice job of spreading the story out. My biggest issue was how much of hero that Wahlberg's Tommy was made out to be. This character didn't even exist, yet he seemed to find himself in every important scene. Again, I know he was a composite character and you want the Wahlberg name to bring people to the film, but I don't know. Why couldn't he just be one of the police officers who played a role on that day? I imagine it was a tough decision, but maybe it wasn't so much. Still, this wasn't a story about the heroism of a fictional character. It was about the heroism of real life characters, many of which we got to see, but many of which we did not.

Was it too early for this movie? Probably. But I'll say this. I've given eulogies at three different funerals. It's a very difficult and emotional thing to do. But I loved all three of those people. So I fought my fears and composed myself the best I could in order to deliver tributes about these important individuals in my life. And when people ask why, knowing how tough it is to honor someone in this way under these sad circumstances, I say that I do them because I know I'll do them as right as I possibly can and I don't want to see others speaking of them and being disappointed. In this situations, I'd rather bet on myself than on others. The same can be said about a movie like Patriots Day. Berg felt that he could do this movie better than anyone else and, likely, didn't want to wait too long in fear that someone else would try to come along and not do the film justice. Berg did the film justice and it becomes a smooth, must-watch from beginning to end.

Plot 10/10
Character Development 8/10
Character Chemistry 8/10
Acting 9/10
Screenplay 9.5/10
Directing 9.5/10
Cinematography 9/10
Sound 10/10
Hook and Reel 10/10
Universal Relevance 10/10
93%

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