Patriots Day marks the third collaboration between director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg recounting recent tragedies. After Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon, their latest continues their work of solidly crafted dramas that fall far short of greatness. Yet there’s enough powerful material to make it recommendation worthy.
The picture recounts the Boston Marathon bombing and its manhunt for the two suspects that carried it out. It was that April 2013 day that marked the largest domestic terror attack since 9/11. Wahlberg is police sergeant Tommy Saunders, who’s on duty near the blast sites at the finish line. He’s witness to the horrific loss of lives and limbs and determined to see the attackers brought to justice.
Berg’s film tells not only the tale of law enforcement response, but also shows us the Tsarnaev brothers as they attempt to flee to enact more destruction in New York City. Older brother Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) is the mastermind while younger brother Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff) is portrayed as a more Westernized stoner college kid who still believes strongly in their cause. It is in the time spent with them that provide a number of chilling moments, including their abduction of a college student as their make their escape. An interrogation scene with Tamerlan’s wife is also a dramatic highlight.
Patriots Day does a commendable job of showing many of the parties whose lives became intertwined by the day’s events. This includes some of the bombing victims as well as individuals calling the shots. John Goodman portrays city police commissioner Ed Davis, Kevin Bacon is the FBI special agent in charge, and J.K. Simmons is a sergeant in the suburb of Watertown where the manhunt culminates. They are all real life characters while Wahlberg’s is not. The lead actor is solid enough in the part, even though the pic may have more effective if the screenwriters had just stuck to the actual players.
Those with decent knowledge of these events may feel a lack of suspense, especially as we build toward the conclusion. The prologue spends some time with people the actors are playing and it made me ready to watch a documentary about their lives since. Overall, it’s worth the time to see this version which sticks mostly to the facts and reminds us of a city’s strength that gave way to an earned slogan.
*** (out of four)