Patriots Day Movie Review
Mark Wahlberg aside, Patriots Day is an intense, vivid and generally accurate portrayal of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt for the two killers. From director Peter Berg, whose other 2016 film is another based-on-a-true-story collaboration with Mark Wahlberg--the intense thriller Deepwater Horizon--Patriots Day is worth seeing, even if the true events may be too fresh for some audiences.
While it is a little surprising to see an adaptation of a tragic event that occurred just a few years ago, there’s no denying that the Boston Marathon bombing presents perfect movie-making material: while there have been many terrorist attacks over the years, few have resulted in such heroics and what many would call a Hollywood ending.
Berg obviously couldn’t resist. And Patriots Day is ultimately a faithful and inoffensive depiction of what happened in those five days in April. Berg has always been a solid director with an eye for slick visuals and tension--he’s never been great at capturing the emotional side of things. Patriots Day is no different: it’s an engaging watch, but lacks the emotional depth to keep it from being anything more than effective thriller.
The movie features a stellar cast, but most everyone, including John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan and Kevin Bacon, are largely wasted, hired less for their acting abilities than their similar appearances to the real people they’re playing. The story is not about any one individual, but a more balanced screenplay could have taken better advantage of the talent at hand.
Wahlberg, who plays a fictional composite that serves as the key protagonist, is the weakest of the bunch. The problem isn’t Wahlberg’s: his character is written to be the stereotypical hotheaded Boston cop, a seemingly competent man who freaks out when the FBI takes over in the way that all cops in movies freak out when the FBI takes over. He isn’t a terrible character, but it was a poor decision to elevate Wahlberg above the ensemble.
While most of the movie is gripping, Patriots Day also falters in the third act just a bit as Berg veers away from the investigative aspects of the story--a disservice to Kevin Bacon--and opts to try, and fail, to add some depth to his main character. Berg should have kept the pedal to the metal until the closing credits, and he doesn’t.
Still, Patriots Day is a worthy film, an exciting depiction of a horrible but ultimately defining day for the city of Boston. While Patriots Day isn’t the incredible movie it possibly could have been, it does what it set out to do: proudly showcase the heroes that emerge from tragedy.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.