Patriots Day (2016) – Film Review

patriots day film review

Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, John Goodman
Certificate: 15

by Jen Grimble

Few of Hollywood’s elite have forged such a diverse career as Mark Wahlberg. His breakthrough role in Scott Kalvert’s The Basketball Diaries caught the attention of critics. Then Wahlberg turned producer for Entourage, helping to define himself not only as a promising actor, but as a protégé behind the lens.

After numerous low-brow comedies and questionable action movies, Wahlberg found critical acclaim and a series of high-profile award nominations for The Fighter and The Departed. Then Deepwater Horizon, released earlier this year, further solidified Wahlberg’s prowess for playing the modern-day “every man”, a father figure with an overwhelming need to protect.

Along with director Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon), Wahlberg has formed an action movie power couple. The duo’s latest effort, Patriots Day, attempts to demystify the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, the biggest attack on American soil since 9/11. Action sequences and archive footage seamlessly work together to create a fluid, intense thriller that drags the audience through the story. From the first explosion to an epic showdown between police and perpetrator, Patriots Day exposes the inner-workings of the FBI, the Boston police department, and the fugitives themselves.

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“Devastating real-life events”

Wahlberg is Officer Tommy Saunders, forced to work a security shift at the Marathon as punishment for misconduct. After a slow build, with introductions to factual characters, the intensity deepens as the Tsarnaev brothers (played by Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze) head to the finish line to plant their homemade explosives. As the runners begin to appear, the first blast kick starts an adrenaline fuelled man-hunt, as the authorities attempt to close in on the criminals responsible.

The introduction of real victims’ stories reinforces the films authenticity. The interviews from real people draw the film to an emotional close. We meet a newly married couple, a father separated from his son, and the University student carjacked and kidnapped during the brothers’ escape. The casting is exceptional, making the film visually and emotionally genuine. The use of archive footage further highlights and corroborates the devastating real-life events, in a well-informed and respectful fashion.

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“Recognises the strength of human will”

Wahlberg is fervently diverse. He portrays a role that is in keeping with his usual character. He morphs from a stubborn police officer to a tender husband, to a hero seeking retribution. Yet he is neither fully engaging, nor totally offensive in the role. The same could be said about the film itself. It isn’t wholly engulfing or a total failure in its underpinning of events. Just as you start to question it, Patriots Day lures you back, shocking and jarring the viewer.

With a killer line-up that includes J.K. Simmons, John Goodman and Kevin Bacon, Patriots Day is a thought-provoking and emotionally-draining drama. It recognises the strength of human will and the resilience of community. Although it lacks the stopping power and acting skills of Captain Philips, and the cruel beauty and epic odyssey of The Impossible, it can hold its head high amongst an endless list of forgettable action movies.


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