Mark Wahlberg loves Boston more than you love your own mother. So who better to play the lead in Patriots Day, this emotive dramatisation of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing? Wahlberg and director Peter Berg have previously paired up for other stories of blue-collar Americans fighting through crisis, such as Deepwater Horizon and Lone Survivor, and here they reunite to strong effect.
The screenplay takes a straightforward, procedural approach to the tragedy, competently sketching the lives of a series of ordinary Bostonians, before diving straight into the attack from the viewpoint of Wahlberg’s cop. It works well enough, but offers few surprises. In particular, it leaves the motivations and characters of the two bombers frustratingly vague. We spend plenty of screen time with the pair, and there are humanising details like their sibling rivalry, but the biggest question – why would anyone do something so atrocious? – is mostly passed over.
Berg is more inventive when it comes to his direction, blending mobile, embedded camerawork with ‘found footage’ from CCTV cameras and mobile phones to build a patchwork reality of the day. It works well, giving a sense of the police and FBI’s hunt for the killer.
The bombing itself is a visceral highlight, with great sound mixing burying you in the nightmare of that fateful moment. The chaos of the explosions and the bravery of the first responders are front and centre, making clear the significance of the attack. It is capped beautifully with a touching shot of a cop standing watch over the body of a 7-year-old boy.
Patriots Day rightly lauds the bravery and heroism of the innocent at the Boston bombing, but its dramatising of the story is too baggy and unfocused to hit home more than sporadically.
CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon
DIRECTOR: Peter Berg
WRITERS: Peter Berg & Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer (screenplay); Peter Berg & Matt Cook and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson (story)
SYNOPSIS: The story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists responsible.