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Australia 2016
Directed by
Peter Berg
133 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Patriots Day

Synopsis: A dramatization of the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013 which killed three and injured hundreds and the subsequent capture of the two perps.

Given that we all know at least the broad strokes of the Boston Marathon bombings, the success of any film dealing with them depends on how successfully they are dramatized. The best you can say of Patriots Day regarding this is that it is adequately done, which means that the known events have been neatly dressed in the familiar style of the crime thriller.  Symptomatic of the approach, the main character, your typical working class Boston cop, Sgt. Tommy Saunders, played by Mark Wahlberg, is a completely fictional creation, devised to give some semblance of an identifiable narrative thread for us to follow, and, should the spirit take us, identify with (Wahlberg is a son of Boston).

The film starts by introducing us to Tommy who has been put on crowd control for some kind of insubordinate behaviour. Then progressively we are introduced to various real-life figures who will play their part in the coming events either as victims or public authorities who will be tasked with catching the bombers. The bombers, two Muslim brothers, are also briefly introduced in their cramped apartment awaiting the start of the race.  Then there’s the explosions and the rest of the film is given over to describing how the brothers were caught thanks to a battery of public surveillance technology and some good ol' firepower. 

There’s a lot to get through here but even with a two and a quarter-hour run-time it all feels unsatisfyingly superficial.  On the one hand there is the usual filmic essentialization of the facts, particularly to do with the investigation, but then there’s also a lot of unnecessary embroidering of them to try to up the “entertainment” factor.  Thus we get some of Tommy’s home life with his improbably good-looking wife (Michelle Monaghan) and ditto for local police chief  J.K. Simmons (although he doesn’t get a good-looking spouse), a detour to show the sweetly innocent life of a police officer (with, for no apparent reason, the inclusion of a robotic dog) who was murdered by the brothers, an action movie style gun battle between the brothers and police that doesn’t look remotely like anything that would have happened in real life and what I take to be a largely speculative depiction of the Tsarnaev bothers albeit one which gives no account of their motives, indeed presents them as a pair of congenital idiots.  Most ill-judged, no doubt in an attempt to get the adrenaline flowiing, is an over-bearing score by Trent Reznor that at times drowns out the dialogue. Harsher critics would draw attention to the fact that there is only one brief allusion to the American bombings of civilians in the Middle East and find the flag-waving, Irish-Catholic “spirit of Boston” ending a little too manipulative.

The story of the Boston bombings is, needless to say, a tragic one and had director Berg and producer/star Wahlberg, who only recently collaborated on the much more successful real-life action drama, Deepwater Horizon, trusted to the strength of the facts this might have been a stronger film.




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