The story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists responsible.
Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, Michelle Monaghan, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Alex Wolff, Themo Melikidze
Rated: R (violence, realistically graphic injury images, language throughout and some drug use)
By Cole Schneider
“Patriot’s Day” is a modestly effective procedural following several strands of people involved on the ground level of the infamous terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon in 2013. The documentary-style camerawork and editing make for a properly tense unfolding of actions we already know and some of the performances are understated to just the right pitch. Mostly, it’s really good—a vague description hinting that when it’s on the other side of ‘mostly’ it isn’t very good at all, and unfortunately those few problems are at the core of the entire film, rendering the more successful aesthetics wasted.
What often feels real becomes increasingly staged as the climax nears, with several too lucid (and perhaps too politicized) speeches, designed to pull the audience in emotionally but instead pushing us away. The arms-length detachment from which most the film operates was just the right distance to balance personal narrative, felt tension, and allegorical application, but when that distance is manipulated everything deflates.
The narrative proper is certainly hurt by those late-movie adjustments, but then director Peter Berg turns the last ten minutes into an ESPN fluff piece about the community of Boston and America. He mistrusts the audience’s intelligence so much that he takes all comparatively subtle the messaging of the movie and then screams it from hospital beds and from Fenway Park, all set to music designed for a eulogy. It’s cheap tear-inducement, and it’s quite a bummer to watch something with such a determined hands-free approach fall into such grand, sappy melodrama.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
By Matt Greene
Patriots Day recounts the horrifying bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon with great care for the details: the chaotic confusion, the shocking violence, the individual personhood of those affected, even the necessary moments of levity. On the other hand, it’s also very Hollywood: the passionate speeches about terrorism, the well-meaning proselytizing about down-home patriotism, even a potentially dangerous representation of Muslims. With a message about communal-love-overcoming-hate that’s never fully realized, its thematically desperate American milquetoast. However, it’s well-made thematically desperate American milquetoast, and sometimes that’s good enough.
Director Berg (last year’s fantastic Deepwater Horizon) is an undeniably talented stylist. His cinema verite camera fits his modern historical dramas well, especially here, when seamlessly mixed with the staggering documentary footage. The R-rating gives him the necessary space to allow the effective action and authentic language to carry the intended naturalism. Unfortunately, for all the reality in the engaging and human thrills (especially during the manhunt), we’re bombarded with some super lame dialogue full of exposition & preachifying, leaving us feeling talked at instead of engaged with.
This dramatic opportunism can often be the inherent difficulty with dramatizing such recent, well-known history. We bring our own fresh memories, political leanings, and personal feelings to each moment, making our criticism more vehement. To Berg’s credit, he mostly sidesteps the bigger problems of this sub-genre by focusing on multiple specific characters directly affected by the tragedy. So while its aims to reach wide left the film feeling shallow, Patriots Day’s procedural suspense & refreshing flow of the story make this a movie worth taking your dad to.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars