‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ – Martin Luther King Jr.
Peter Berg teams up with Mark Wahlberg yet again to tackle another tragedy on American soil following the Navy SEAL operation gone wrong in Lone Survivor (2014) and the oil spill misadventure in Deepwater Horizon (2016). This is indisputably Berg’s most personal project yet as he recounts the events of the Boston Marathon Bombing which shook the American public. Patriots Day documents the aftermath of that heinous attack and is altogether a display of how the people of Boston stood together with unflinching strength and resilience in the face of terror.
With respect to the quote above, don’t let the infamous social justice warriors cloud your judgement on this film with their baseless arguments about the morality of this form of capitalism or the war against islamophobia because at the end of the day, Patriots Day is a heartfelt story about the modern-day ‘Good vs Evil’. It is a legitimate tribute to the people whose lives were drastically changed for the worse on that fateful day and a solid salute to the everyday heroes who put their lives on the line for the fight against an incorrigible force.
For a relatively short filming period, I admire Berg for imbuing so much heart and passion into a film which required the necessary attention. But as with most of his movies, I always have an issue with his traditional first act which in this case sees him introduce us to the likable citizens of the Boston community. It felt excessively cheesy and overly clichéd since I was a witness of his past two films. We get up close and personal with their lives, albeit sometimes uncomfortable and it just felt like the movie didn’t take advantage of our knowledge in their ill-fated future and we are abandoned in a state of emotional awkwardness. We are not sure whether we should have empathy for these people who will be unfortunate victims of the terrible act and it’s akin to our feelings being stranded in the middle of nowhere
Fast forward, the introduction flies by and Patriots Day makes an exciting transition from corny to gritty as the sophisticated manhunt for the terrorists who were responsible for that despicable deed is ramped up. The realism when the blast went off is impeccable and the scenes of the aftermath of the attack were haunting to watch. This version of the Boston Bombing investigation is unfiltered and a real justification to the massive scale of the attack. Aside from the anarchy, we are brought beyond the lenses of myopic news outlets to be a part of a very realistically shot and grounded investigation. It was an eye-opening experience to observe just the sheer amount of work and dedication needed to make the operation a success. From the first responders to the intelligence agencies, everyone had a clear, pivotal role to play in the crackdown of the suspects and ultimately, Patriots Day is an embodiment of the ‘Boston Strong’ slogan.
Let’s not even have a conversation about the character Mark Wahlberg plays – a fictitious Boston Police cop by the name of Sgt Tommy Saunders. Patriots Day does a pretty decent job in juggling the chronicles of the real life heroes and survivors, so the decision to write in Wahlberg’s character as the film’s main protagonist can be distracting at times. And speaking of distracting, the bad knee that Wahlberg gets from the opening scene sticks out like a sore thumb and I don’t see the point of making that handicap a visible issue in the scenes he is in. if it is to display his persistence in going above and beyond his call of duty to clamp down on those ‘motherfuckers’, then it is entirely unnecessary to say the least.
Apart from all the investigative work shenanigans, Patriots Day also focused on the jihadists’ plans prior to and after the attack; two brothers by the name of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who were behind it all. They had some of the movie’s most memorable scenes which really made me feel as if I was caught in their crosshairs. The unpredictability of such villainous people was also highlighted in an especially gripping sequence involving the carjacking of a local Chinese student, Dun Meng.
Patriots Day respectfully captures the unification of the Boston people when terror strikes home and it is an authentic depiction of the gargantuan magnitude the attack had on people from all walks of life. The third time must be the charm for Peter Berg as he finds his footing in this genre of vigorous docudramas about patriots, survivors and evil.
Should you spend money on it? Yes
Directed by: Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon)
Screenplay by:Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Joshua Zetumer
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons, John Goodman, Michelle Monaghan
Running time: 133 minutes