Starring: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon
Director: Peter Berg
Running Time: 133 mins
Patriots Day is an American film about the events that unfolded after two explosions hit the Boston Marathon in 2013, as the city’s police launch a massive manhunt on the two suspects who launched the deadly attacks.
This is an absolutely fascinating film. From Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg, the duo who brought you Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon both hugely impressive and exciting historical dramas, Patriots Day might just be the best yet. Taking an incredibly recent event and telling it in an impressively calm and mature manner, the film is an absolutely fascinating account of the events that unfolded following the Boston bombings, complete with some brilliant performances and thrilling tension throughout.
What I think is most important to bear in mind going into this film is how recent and relevant the events that are depicted still are. I vividly remember the story of the endless manhunt that followed the tragic attacks, and so had some of my own preconceptions about the people involved in both the attacks and the rescue work, as you likely will too. However, this film looks at the story from as historical a perspective as possible. Yes, it’s very patriotic from the American side, but it doesn’t portray everything as black and white.
On the one side, you’ve got the authorities who launch the search immediately after the attacks that took them completely by surprise. Whilst Mark Wahlberg is shown as a true American hero (more on that later), you do get an interesting perspective at some of the other people involved, most of whom are true to life.
Whilst there’s a lot of patriotism showing the strength and resilience of Bostonians in the aftermath, what happens inside the investigation isn’t quite so clear-cut, as tension unfolds between various different branches of the authorities that makes for some fascinating watching.
On the other side, Patriots Day gives a lot of screen time to the two perpetrators of the attacks, a man and his younger brother fighting under Islamic fundamentalism. It’s a little different from what you normally see from these historical retellings, but I was impressed to see that it actually worked quite well.
Whilst I can’t say that I ever sympathised with the terrorists as people, the film does show you the other side of the younger of the two men. From start to finish, although he carries out the horrific attacks, he’s shown as a bit of a child playing in a world that he doesn’t really understand. It’s an interesting take on the story, whether it’s entirely true or not, and it did justify the significant screen time their story was given, which I didn’t expect to see at all.
Let’s talk about Peter Berg’s direction. We’ve seen that he’s found a winning formula with Mark Wahlberg in bringing these patriotic stories of modern American history to the big screen, and Patriots Day steps it up yet another notch. Apart from being a riveting and in-depth story that I couldn’t take my eyes off of, Berg gives the film a very consistent pace and assurance that retains the seriousness of the topic whilst also allowing it to be an exciting thriller.
I wouldn’t say that this is a rapid-paced movie, and its long runtime is indicative of that, but the fact that we get so much depth into the events of the bombings and their aftermath makes it a completely engrossing film to watch from start to finish, whilst Berg’s ability to make the story as convincing and thrilling as possible is hugely impressive.
Moving onto the performances, which are absolutely excellent as well. In the lead role, Mark Wahlberg gives a similar performance to that in Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon, but it’s one that works really well. Likable and believable, he pulls off the plucky American everyman-turned-hero brilliantly, and that makes him a perfect protagonist to will on throughout.
What’s more is you’ve got a huge ensemble cast that’s full of more brilliant acting. John Goodman is great as Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner, J.K. Simmons is as fantastic as ever as Watertown Police Sgt. Jeffery Pugliese, and Kevin Bacon pulls off an excellent performance as FBI agent Richard DesLauriers, all of them adding highly to the film’s palpable sense of realism and drama.
If there is one issue I have with Patriots Day, it’s the fact that it’s not 100% true to life. Whilst the story is still utterly enthralling at every moment, the knowledge that Mark Wahlberg’s character isn’t a real person involved in the story, along with a few more differences with the true events, was a little disappointing, and slightly took away from the realism that the film builds so well.
On the whole, however, Patriots Day is still an absolutely brilliant film. Historically fascinating and enthralling from start to finish, and complete with excellent directing and performances, the film makes Peter Berg’s recent formula work better than ever before, and makes for a hugely exciting and engrossing watch, which is why I’m giving it an 8.6.