Director: Peter Berg
Producers: Scott Stuber, Dylan Clark, Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson, Hutch Parker, Dorothy Aufiero and Michael Radutzky
Screenplay by: Peter Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer
Based on the book: ‘Boston Strong’ by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge
Soundtrack: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J. K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan
Based on true events surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Patriots Day details the hours leading up to, during and immediately following the attack which killed three people and seriously injured over 270 bystanders, sixteen of whom lost limbs.
Director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg previously collaborated on the disaster flick Deepwater Horizon (2016), and their combined talents have enabled them to effectively recreate the Boston Marathon bombings with gritty realism.
Shot in a semi-documentary style, using hand-held cameras to capture the raw immediacy of events, the film effectively incorporates archival footage from the 2013 marathon. I think of this style as “shaky cam” and by the three-quarter mark of this 133-minute feature I was feeling very queasy, so if you prefer smoother camera work it might be best to sit far back from the screen. The synthesizer soundtrack music became repetitive and intrusive at times and a bit distancing, where silence might have worked better.
The actual bombing sequence wasn’t a surprise because most people know it happened, so the first half of the film focussed on establishing who would be directly affected by the bombings and allowed the audience to become attached to these people. The explosions were effectively staged and edited, and quite graphic without dwelling too much on the gruesome severed limbs.
After a slow patch the tension increased during the second half when the police and FBI manhunt turned to identifying and tracking down the perpetrators of the bombings.
Star Mark Wahlberg portrayed a fictional police officer, an amalgamation of several actual officers, and I felt he was the weakest link because he wasn’t based on a real person and his backstory was largely irrelevant. The sequence where the FBI call on his extensive knowledge of Boston streets to retrace the two bombers’ steps with technicians who then scroll through CCTV footage to find the culprits, really challenged credibility. Surely there would be effective IT software to achieve this without relying on the memory of one sleep-deprived man!
The home-grown terrorists (brothers) were not given much obvious motivation for their actions, aside from a short conversation with the owner of a hijacked car. The first shoot-out with the two terrorists when one of them was critically injured and captured seemed quite over the top with extensive gun fire, home-made bombs exploding and general mayhem ensuing, but a check of the facts indicates it really happened this way.
Boston and its people came across as the real heroes of this inspiring film, with the term “Boston Strong” becoming a rallying cry of hope and love in the face of horror.
What really got to me, however, was not the capture of the remaining terrorist but the photos of the three victims who had died at the scene, particularly the eight-year-old boy, whose sheet-covered body had to be left in situ until all crime-scene forensics had been completed.
That heart-rending photo of innocence really brought home the sheer waste and tragedy of this horrific event.