“We got Multiple Explosions. We need help down here!” – Patriots Day (Film Review)

In April 2013 two brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, detonated a pair of bombs during the Boston Marathon, injuring an estimated two hundred and eighty people and killing three. A manhunt followed as the city grieved and overcame the crisis by rallying together, which is the focus of the film Patriots Day. Peter Berg directs and Mark Wahlberg stars, the two collaborated previously on Deepwater Horizon and Lone Survivor which were two films that also dealt with real life tragedies.

Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Wahlberg) is overseeing the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon when two explosions are triggered nearby. Many are injured and multiple law enforcement agencies are forced to react swiftly to organise a manhunt for the perpetrators and bring them to justice. The film examines multiple different viewpoints on the tragedy, from that of the victims, the agencies investigating and the bombers themselves.

Peter Berg, having previously directed features focusing on real life tragic events, is able to manage the subject matter deftly. Wahlberg plays a composite character, the fictional Tommy Saunders, who is present throughout a lot of the key scenes. The inclusion of such a character alongside real life officers could have been a contentious issue, but Wahlberg’s character is just another face in a crowd of many. Patriots Day pays tribute to the multiple heroes who rose to the occasion during the wake of the attacks. The city’s numerous emergency services, and the women and men who staff them, performed amazing deeds and the film interprets this through a compelling and realistic drama. Dramatising events such as this can run the risk of trivialising the disaster but the message Patriots Day transmits is one of hope against those who would commit unthinkable evils. The performances throughout are excellent, Berg really does pull the best out of Wahlberg, and the decision to cast veterans like J.K Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon and Michelle Monaghan ensures that the drama is capably performed. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have composed a highly versatile score that captures and enhances the feelings of tragedy, tension, relief and eventually jubilation within the city of Boston. The pair won an Oscar in the past for their work on The Social Network and Patriot’s Day ranks amongst their most emotive and resonant scores.

Patriots Day is a conundrum of a movie, much like Deepwater Horizon. It’s a hard sell to ask someone to watch a dramatisation displaying the worst aspects of humanity. Who wants to peer into the soul of someone who believes mass murder is an act ever worth committing, irrelevant of faith and belief? However, Patriots Day focuses on the reactive side of these atrocities as well. That when hate attacked, love responded in earnest. An act meant to divide and scatter the people of Boston backfired as the city united. Patriots Day ends with a series of interviews with the real-life subjects of the film, including some of the grievously wounded. Their resilience and strength brought me to tears and is worth seeing for yourself.


Dir: Peter Berg

Scr: Peter Berg, Matt Cook,  Joshua Zetumer

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, J.K Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, Alex Wolff, Themo Melikidze, Michael Beach, Jimmy O. Yung, Vincent Curatola

Prd: Mark Wahlberg, Scott Stuber, Dylan Clark, Stephen Levinson, Hutch Parker, Dorothy Aufiero, Stephen Stapinski, Michael Radutzky

DOP: Tobias Schliessler

Music: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

Country: USA

Year: 2017

Runtime: 133 Minutes

Patriots Day is out now in UK cinemas.


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