Review: In Patriots’ Day 2013, two bombs blasted off during Boston marathon, killed 3 civilians, including an 8-y.o. child and injured hundred others. Only three and a half year passes, a big-budgeted retelling of it has already made into screen, not as a kind of exploitation, but as a moving, respectful story. Patriots Day is an ode to a city survives from tragedy.
With Patriots Day, Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon) has proven himself as an avid filmmaker, a specialist to craft an authentic reenactment with hearts within. There’s sympathy depicted in its dramatic docu-like pictures coupled with authentic footage and spotlights to certain people who directly involved in the tragedy.
At first, Berg creates a sense of serenity: a one calm moment before the storm—where the city prepares to welcome the big day. Montague from people involved in the tragedy are randomly but purposely flashed on the screen: a suspended police sergeant, Jimmy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), who was assigned to marshal the finish line, and his wife (Michelle Monaghan); another couple—Patrick Downes (Christopher O’Shea) and Jessica Kensky (Rachel Brosnahan); a cigarette-packed sergeant, Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons), a Chinese guy who had just bought a SUV, Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang), and a young police officer, Sean Collier (Jake Picking). Before the tragedy, we cannot guess what or how those figures will connect to each other, but we all know that they will be connected at one point by the bombing tragedy.
Then come the Tsarnaev Brothers: an extremist devotee, Tamerlan, and a more reluctant Dzokhar (Alex Wolff). There’s internal conflicts between the brothers before the bombing, due to Dzokhar’s reluctancy, but their plan keeps going on. Several minutes after the winners cross the finish line, the brothers put two bags, with pressure cooker bombs inside, on two different spots around the finish line.
Berg builds an efficient grade of tension which goes in line with the tick-tock of the bombs. When the bombs finally explode; it’s harrowing and it’s vividly heartbreaking. Compiling shots from real-life footage from CCTVs around the ground zero and combining it with the cinematic horror where you can see scattered limbs, crimson roads reeking from fresh blood, or the body of an 8-y.o. child, Patriots Day convinces audiences that it is not an entertainment. The horror of it is real; and Peter Berg delivers it effectively.
However, Patriots Day isn’t about the bomb and it’s not about who becomes hero and who becomes villain. There’s no real fine line to point out who the real hero is; not Wahlberg’s temperamental police sergeant; not John Goodman’s police chief; not Kevin Bacon’s special agent, and not all of them individually. The real hero of Patriots Day is the city itself; Boston at its strongest face.
In the end, after all the turmoils and restlessness, Peter Berg opts to present a real-life testimony from the survivors and the responsible officers about the tragedy and how it has affected them personally. Berg concludes it as a moving story, which centers around the survivors and reminds audience that it is a real story of horror and how people encounter it.
Patriots Day is a film about the tragedy happened at the titular day; but it also serves more than that. It’s a respectful tribute to the resilience and compassion of a city in aftermath of a tragedy. It’s more of a love message than a patriotism show-off or melodrama or revenge.
Patriots Day (2017)
Drama, History, Thriller Directed by: Peter Berg Written by: Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Joshua Zetumer Starred by: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, J.K. Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon Runtime: 133 mins Rated R
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