Patriots Day is the latest film from Peter Berg, and it comes hot on the heels of the success of Deepwater Horizon. It’s not unlike that film—it’s about a tragedy that happened in recent years, in this case the Boston Marathon bombing. The focus is on the manhunt for the two terrorists who were responsible. It also stars Mark Wahlberg, who has been Berg’s leading man for his last three films.
Wahlberg plays Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders, who is on duty during the marathon and is soon wrapped up in the investigation. Saunders has to work with his fellow police officers and the FBI, led by Richard DesLauriers, who is portrayed by Kevin Bacon. Boston is quickly shut down completely as the police, the FBI and the Boston community work together to catch the two terrorists on the run.
The film is a fairly solid examination of the event from most angles. The terrorists are not painted in black and white, which is an intelligent approach, especially since given the title it would be understandable if viewers expected some flag-waving crap. The sections with the victims are effective and affecting, but there is another film on the bombing coming out soon, Stronger, which focuses more on the victims. The manhunt is the film’s strongest plot-point: it’s a real race against time, as the two terrorists go on a bit of a rampage afterwards. It also provides a real feel of the community of Boston and how it worked together with the cops, which is a rarity there.
Peter Berg was primarily an actor for much of his career, so he always pulls together a good cast. Wahlberg initially turned the role down, but liked the script’s approach and obviously already had a working relationship with Berg. It’s a role that plays to his strengths, and I would certainly rather see him do a film like this than more of those Transformers movies. The cast is rounded off with reliable supporting actors, like the aforementioned Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J. K. Simmons and Michelle Monaghan.
Overall, it’s solid adult filmmaking but with broad commercial appeal, not unlike the work of Clint Eastwood. Berg seamlessly melds together reconstructions with news footage, and the actors cast as the two terrorists are spot-on physically. Amusingly enough for fans of cult films the terrorists seem to own a copy of the ’90s teen dark comedy Jawbreaker. The disc has an array of featurettes on the making of the film and the true-life events covered in it.