Patriots Day covers the bombings at the Boston marathon in 2013, but did it achieve what it set out to do? Max Langer reviews.
After the success of both Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon, director Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg return with another dramatic retelling of a real life event. But is it too soon to be telling this story?
The film chronicles the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013 and the aftermath. Not following a linear path, the film meanders around, showing the path of the investigation, but also we are shown the story from the view of the bombers and some victims.
Patriots Day is film that relies on a large and varied cast of characters. While some films with the same number of characters struggle to give them all adequate care; Patriots Day is able to balance its giant ensemble. By focusing on such a large group, the film shifts from being about a person, to being about the city as a whole.
Though the film shares the spotlight amongst its cast, the driving force is very much “Marky” Mark Wahlberg as the Boston Police Department Sergeant Tommy Saunders. Saunders is very reminiscent of some of Wahlberg’s other loud-mouthed portrayals, think Dignam in The Departed. However, he has an added complexity that is great to see from the actor.
The film is unapologetically sentimental about its subject matter, taking a very different view than the negativity often portrayed by news reports of the event. Instead of showing Boston as battered and broken, the city is galvanized, rallying together to seek justice and closure.
Unfortunately, the film swings far too quickly from moments of poignancy to action. Overall, taking away some of the effect of these more somber moments. It’s all well and good having a massive shootout, but when half the audience are still weeping from the previous scene, some of the effect is lost.
The double act of Berg and Wahlberg has been proven again
Despite the problems with the pacing, Patriots Day is able to produce some very powerful moments that have a visceral effect on the audience. The shot of a police officer watching over a young victim was truly moving, causing many a whimper amongst the audience.
Also, the build up to the attack controls the tension extremely well. Even though the audience knows what is coming, the explosion is still made to feel shocking. This tension is controlled by the great editing that jumps between the dramatisation and real life footage.
These moments are where the attention to detail really shines through. The difference between the real life footage and the production is hardly noticeable, making the film feel like more of a documentary than a drama.
— Patriots Day (@patriotsdayfilm) March 6, 2017
While the subject material could leave the film feeling overly patriotic and clichéd , the director Peter Berg repeats the feat he has achieved before on other Mark Wahlberg collaborations and manages to portray the event with sufficient complexity that it doesn’t feel exploitative of the event.
Overall, Patriots Day performs a brilliant balancing act, managing to keep the story fast paced and thrilling, whilst still allowing the subject to resonate emotionally with the audience. The double act of Berg and Wahlberg has been proven again, showing how recent history can be transferred to the big screen with great effect.
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