Hot Take: This Berg/Wahlberg combo is consistent, at least. Like Deepwater Horizon in the way it tells the story, Patriots Day is a well done recount of the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon and subsequent manhunt.
For the third consecutive time, director Peter Berg has taken a compelling true story, partnered with Mark Wahlberg and turned it into a very watchable movie. Patriots Day joins 2013’s Lone Survivor and 2016’s Deepwater Horizon on Berg’s resume as the third consecutive “based on a true story” film directed by him. In his career, it’s the fifth time Berg brought a true story to the big screen with the first two happening in 2004 (Friday Night Lights) and 2007 (The Kingdom) and without the talent of Wahlberg at his disposal.
The 2013 Boston Marathon finding its place in cinematic history was inevitable as most stories of its magnitude are often destined for a film retelling. Less than 4 years to turn a horrific event into something for audiences to consume is rather quickly though. Most of the film is historically accurate. Berg takes a few liberties including introducing a composite character of Sergeant Tommy Saunders for Mark Wahlberg to play who is one of the rare fictional characters in the film. Wahlberg’s character represents a few different officers who were involved when the Boston Marathon terrorist attack look place as well as being part of the manhunt.
Berg treats the incident and the victims of the attack with great respect. The film itself acts as a love letter to the people of Boston. “Boston Strong” comes through loud and clear throughout the film despite never actually being mentioned until the end of the movie. Patriots Day also gives some background on all of the key players whose story we end up following in the film including some of the more storied victims whose stories have film-worthy magnitude.
There’s not a lot to criticize here as Berg’s signature handheld camerawork is evident throughout. He blends it with actual real security camera footage from the actual events. Berg and the cast treat the event with great respect and while the detailing of events surrounding the bombing and manhunt are often sensational, they don’t feel sensationalized.
Unfortunately, the movie can only accomplish so much. Like Deepwater Horizon, there are often moments where Patriots Day feels more like a documentary with actors than an actual movie. It helps with the accuracy and authenticity but it doesn’t always make for great cinema. The event itself, though, is cinematic enough to overcome that which makes Patriots Day an above average film experience and solidifies Berg’s expertise in bringing real events to life in blockbuster movie fashion.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The Inspirational Stories of the Victims
As the film wraps up, we get some glimpses into what happened after the horrific event. There are a few moving moments as the epilogue shows some real courage in the face of such adversity.
- Respectfully Boston
“Boston Strong” resonates throughout the film. The actors recreate the Boston accent we’re all familiar with at this point and Patriots Day, despite the horror of its focus, has plenty of positive and uplifting moments that treat the city of Boston with great care.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
As good as Wahlberg can be, his fictional character often feels cartoonish and delivers some cheesy, overwritten lines in an attempt to add drama and emotion to scenes that, honestly, really don’t need it. His portrayal of Saunders occasionally even feels cartoonish.