Monday, April 3, 2017

Movie Review: PATRIOTS DAY (2016) Starring Mark Wahlberg


Director: Peter Berg
Genre: Drama, History, Thriller
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, J.K. Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, Rachel Brosnahan, Lana Condor, Jake Picking, Christopher O'Shea
Runtime: 133 min
Rating: R for violence, realistically graphic injury images, language throughout and some drug use
Purchasing Links: DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD

Read the review after the jump.


Review by Popa Razvan

Peter Berg's "Patriots Day" is the first of two film inspired by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and it's based on the book "Boston Strong: A City's Triumph Over Tragedy" written by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge. The second film, titled "Stronger", stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany, and will be released sometime in 2017. While the latter will portray the story of only one of the tragedy's victims, Berg's film has a wider scope and ambitiously attempts to cover not only the bombing and personal tragedies, but also the subsequent citywide manhunt that led to the capture of those responsible for the attack.

Patriots Day Movie Image 1

If you're unfamiliar with the events depicted, here's a brief rundown of the historical facts. On April 15th 2013, two bombs exploded at the finish line of Boston's annual Patriot's Day Marathon. The marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon, and it began in 1897, inspired by the success of the first marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics. The bombs were homemade devices assembled by brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and were powerful enough to kill three people and injure another 280. Many of the survivors had their legs amputated following the attack because the bombs were placed on the ground, resulting in massive lower body injuries. The brothers escaped undetected, but the ensuing investigation uncovered their identities and resulted in a tense citywide manhunt. After four grueling days, one of the brothers was killed in a shootout with law enforcement, while the other was eventually captured after an unprecedented lockdown of the entire city.

Patriots Day Movie Image 3

The film covers all of these events in a pretty detailed manner, using the fictional character Tommy Saunders, played by Mark Wahlberg as a plot device to hold the narrative together. Tommy's actions in the film are based on the experiences of several police officers during those four days, which is why he's always in the middle of the action from beginning to end. It's actually not a bad idea, despite making him feel like a typical Hollywood hero. It streamlines the narrative by not crowding the film with a lot of characters that we couldn't possibly keep track of amid an already hefty ensemble. This way we get a central character that we can latch on to. Unfortunately the effect is diminished by a sketchy characterization that makes Tommy act more like a stereotype than a real person.

Since Wahlberg's performance is okay in spite of how poorly the character is written, it doesn't hurt the overall experience too much. The rest of the cast is dutifully efficient, and the toned down nature of their performances contribute to the film's docudrama feel, which is actually a very good thing. The biggest problem is that while the film is faithful in its retelling of actual events, it sacrifices other things like fleshing out its characters.

Patriots Day Movie Image 2

Berg and Wahlberg deserve credit for making a film that doesn't sensationalize the tragedy and doesn't turn the manhunt into an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, either. It walks a fine line between docudrama and thriller, delivering the best of both without feeling exploitative. It's briskly paced, coherent, suspenseful, informative, well-acted and, in my opinion, Peter Berg's best film. However, I still have doubts about bringing this story on the big screen so soon after the bombing.

Less than four years had passed at the time of the film's release. The traumatic events were still fresh in people's minds. Some Bostonians were supportive of the movie, others were against it. It's also probably why the film was a box-office failure. Even if the reasons behind the filmmakers and the studio's decision to make this film are sincere, I can't help but feel the timing raises reasonable doubts, even if, again, the film itself does a pretty good job of giving the events a respectful treatment. It doesn't make any political statements, focusing instead on the strength of a community united in the face of tragedy. It's a worthwhile message, but hardly one that needed reminding, so the necessity of making this movie now remains questionable, in my opinion. If you would rather avoid a cinematic treatment of this story, you would be better off watching HBO's highly acclaimed documentary "Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing".



  • Respectful, balanced and fairly detailed chronicle of a tragic event and its aftermath
  • Offers emotional and suspenseful moments without abusively exploiting the subject matter
  • Solid casting
  • Peter Berg's direction

  • Undeveloped characters
  • The fictional central character might mislead viewers and is too anchored in stereotypes
  • Too soon for a cinematic treatment of the subject



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