Not the movie itself, but what director Peter Berg, and in part Mark Wahlberg, are doing feels exploitative, taking tragedies and turning a profit. That being said, “Patriots Day” (opening months after their Deepwater Horizon collaboration) showcases what Berg and his team does best, deliver thrilling scenes of chaos.
Yes, this film, dedicated to the Boston Marathon victims, shines a light on real-life heroes, reminding all of us at what was lost that day. Unfortunately, it also turns the event into an eye roll as Wahlberg plays a composite of many different law enforcement officers to give the film a central “action hero” feel.
The “Transformers” actor is the film’s weakest link in a disconnected and compromised performance.
Coming off a suspension, Sgt. Tommy Saunders (Wahlberg) is assigned to wear the neon vest at the finish line of America’s oldest runner’s marathon. What started as an exciting spring day in 2013, quickly turned deadly when terrorist brothers Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff) and Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) Tsarnaev placed handmade explosive devices in the crowd. Following the explosions that killed three and wounded countless others, Saunders aids victims, including his wife Carol (Michelle Monaghan) to safety. The sergeant’s day is only just beginning after clearing the streets, he becomes integral to the FBI’s investigation led by special agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon). Saunders sticks with the man hunt as they follow the killers to the town of Waterson.
Like “Sully” or “United 93,” “Patriots Day” time stamps the events and screen credits each character as they appear on screen. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross score (their first outside a David Fincher film) really raises the level of tension along with the editing that puts the viewer at eye level with the victims, law enforcement and the bombers.
“Patriots Day” isn’t a performance vehicle, even Wahlberg struggles to get a scene where he is allowed to deliver a performance beyond just reacting and pushing the narrative to the next newsworthy moment. John Goodman as Commissioner Ed Davis gets one good fist on a desk scene, but everything else is actors reacting not acting. Which is why “Patriots Day” isn’t being featured in awards season.
Similar to “Deepwater Horizon,” Berg orchestrates chaos masterfully, driving suspense in a story where we already know the conclusion. Real footage from surveillance cameras are cut into some of the more intense scenes to give the film a third eye feel. The most emotional moments of “Patriots Day” come just before the credits, as real footage of survivors bring the movie’s message full circle. “Deepwater Horizon” was more impressive technically as the scale, visual effects and technical elements gave the viewer an experience unlike anything we had seen before.
“Patriots Day” is more similar to Berg’s “Lone Survivor” as it aims to rouse support and interest from the conservative community. While “Sully” focuses on the man behind the story, offering information not widely known to the public, “Patriots Day” covers everything we already know.
Final Thought — Berg/Wahlberg add another chapter to their specific niche genre of dramatizing recent news stories.