Patriots Day is the third Monday in April, on which the Boston Marathon takes place, but the one in 2013 is the focus here as it was the day two ISIS terrorists planned to set off explosions and do what all those nutjobs do in causing death and destruction – claiming to be Muslims when they’re not, and allegedly doing this in the name of their God when they are just psychopaths who should drown themselves alone and in the nearest river.
Mark Wahlberg takes centre stage as cop and accidental hero Tommy Saunders, in the right place at the right time, as he’s situated on security detail by the finishing line. It’s also the third time he’s teamed up with director Peter Berg, who I first came across acting as Dr Billy Kronk in Chicago Hope, but is now best known for directing some outstanding films including Deepwater Horizon – one of my favourites from last year – and 2013’s Lone Survivor, a little uneven overall but containing some breathtaking moments that make it a must-see, both of those being the other two Berg/Wahlberg collaborations.
While I had no knowledge of those involved with the real-life event at the time, it’s clear that Tommy knew the streets like the back of his hand, which was instrumental in getting the right help to the right place at the right time, which leads to many tense situations, some of which are action-packed, and all of which leave you on the edge of your seat. He’s joined by some big names including JK Simmons, Kevin Bacon and John Goodman, who has clearly lost a fair amount of weight recently and looked a little gaunt around the face. They’re playing real people, some of whom you can put faces to later on when they are also shown.
Patriots Day shows the bombers getting ready while Saunders prepares for the day ahead – the cop forever being dogged by a problematic knee, plus certain marathon runners and other individuals with their stories of the day – initially, I was thinking, just like Sully: Miracle On The Hudson did with some of the plane’s passengers, but here they were actually relevant; and they also have to deal with stopping the runners from continuing, who either still think the marathon is on or are just too pig-ignorant and selfish to stop.
The film builds up the tension nicely – as Deepwater Horizon did, they do a brilliant job of recreating the panic of the situation, we see horrific injuries and amputations, but unfortunately, as with that film, the female roles are under-used, whether brief flirtations or girlfriends, or even Saunders’ wife, Carol, played by Michelle Monaghan, echoing the lack of screen time afforded to Kate Hudson in last year’s oil rig action/drama.
There’s also some unexpected humour such as when Fox News threaten to release the photos of the – to the FBI at the time – alleged terrorists, and the FBI’s Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) exclaims, “I will NOT let Fox News run this investigation!”
and John Goodman as Commissioner Ed Davis
I really wasn’t expecting too much from this, but after the bombs strike at the 26-minute point, the tension rarely lets up in any way whatsoever during the hunt for the culprits, and I was almost as gripped with this as I was with Berg & Wahlberg’s Deepwater Horizon. It’s a far cry from the typical jingoistic claptrap that Hollywood usually puts out about such events, such as the incredibly overhyped and underpowered United 93. If only Peter Berg and his team had been running the show on that one.
Yes, there’s an epilogue feturing some of the real people with real life stories, but it never sinks into mawkish sentimentality like many American real-life dramas often do, such as the aforementioned Sully. Initially, I wondered why none of these moments feature Tommy Saunders, himself, until I learned that the character is an amalgamation of several people involved in the situation, telling all their stories, similar to how Dave Johns represented several individual stories being told but applied to one man in I, Daniel Blake.
Closing with the pictures of those who were killed in this attack, this reviewer is left with the distinct impression that overall, Berg shows he is fast becoming one of the finest directors of his generation.
Interestingly, two other films about this incident have also been in the works: Boston Strong – a phrase which came about soon after this happened, would’ve starred Manchester By The Sea‘s Casey Affleck, but which was since worked into the Patriots Day script; and Stronger, still due for release this year, and centering on victim Jeff Bauman (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) as well as Police Commissioner Ed Davis’ experiences during the hunt for the bombers. Currently in post-production, Stronger hasn’t yet been given a specific release date. I feel it may be a bit ‘after the fact’ following this release, but time will tell.
(click on the image for the full-size version)
Running time: 134 minutes
Studio: Lionsgate UK Ltd
Format: 2.35:1 (ARRIRAW (3.4K))
Released: February 23rd 2017
Director: Peter Berg
Producers: Dorothy Aufiero, Dylan Clark, Stephen Levinson, Hutch Parker, Michael Radutzky, Scott Stuber and Mark Wahlberg
Screenplay: Peter Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer
Music: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Sergeant Tommy Saunders: Mark Wahlberg
Commissioner Ed Davis: John Goodman
Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese: JK Simmons
Mayor of Boston Thomas Menino: Vincent Curatola
Carol Saunders: Michelle Monaghan
FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers: Kevin Bacon
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: Alex Wolff
Tamerlan Tsarnaev: Themo Melikidze
Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick: Michael Beach
Superintendent William Evans: James Colby
Dun Meng: Jimmy O Yang
Jessica Kensky: Rachel Brosnahan
Patrick Downes: Christopher O’Shea
Katherine Russell (wife of Tamerlan Tsarnaev): Melissa Benoist
Interrogator: Khandi Alexander
Himself: David Ortiz
MIT Officer Sean Collier: Jake Picking
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.