Patriots Day

Directed by Peter Berg
Starring Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, Michelle Monaghan and J.K. Simmons
Available on Digital Download June 19th, 2017 (watch via iTunes)
On Blu-ray & DVD June 26th, 2017

by Joanna Orland

At first I struggled to understand why a film about a modern terrorist attack has been made in an era of constant threat. Between the time I had watched Patriots Day and written this review, another attack, a devastating one in Manchester occurred. All are tragic, all are senseless, but what was it about the Boston Marathon bombings that makes it unique to bring to the big screen? In one word: Manhunt.

Most of the drama of the Boston Marathon bombings unfolded after the bombs went off, killing three people and injuring hundreds. I am in no way belittling the heartbreaking ordeal that the victims went through, but what stands out in this story amongst the wave of European terror attacks is the hunt for the suspects. Brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev left their bags at the scene, meaning they were wanted men after the crime they perpetrated. They dramatically tried to flee Boston for New York, taking out civilians along the way, causing damage in a shootout. Tamerlan was run over by his brother and it all climaxed with Dzhokhar hiding out in a boat until apprehended by the police. This dramatic arc is exactly why Patriots Day exists as a film.

Director Peter Berg produces work as stylish as it comes. He is used to taking on quite patriotic subjects such as this bombing, and somehow never preaches, never succumbs to melodrama or cheesiness, but always keeps his films on form in a mature and dramatic fashion. This remains true for Patriots Day which somehow avoids being too patriotic or sappy – it finds the perfect balance of stoicism and drama.

In spite of knowing the story and its outcome, I couldn’t help but be gripped throughout this film. The performances are wonderful and the tension is built up masterfully. While the characters are plentiful, they are all sympathetic, well, with the exception of the terrorists themselves even though they’re depicted in quite a humanistic rather than barbaric manner. But this is exactly the right approach and what makes this film effective.

The film is solidly mesmerizing until after the shootout where it unfortunately waivers, peaking long before the boat-hiding finale. As the credits roll, the obligatory interviews with the real life characters are on screen and you realize how uncanny these performances have been and how Patriots Day really captures the human essence of tragedy.

Does dramatizing this tragedy glorify the actions of the terrorists? This is something I wondered before watching the film, but Patriots Day truly glorifies Boston and its resilient people who came together when faced with unthinkable hardship.


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