As ignorant as it may be I’m not an avid follower of the news. However, for me, the Boston Marathon bombing was different. Having been a runner in the past I was immediately outraged at this attempt to destroy such a momentous occasion. The finish line to a marathon should be a place filled with joy, accomplishment and triumph. Instead this event was tarnished with bloodshed and fear. I remember being gripped by the news as it broke. Thinking back on the incident it’s hard to believe that this April will be the four year anniversary.
Tasked with retelling this story was director Peter Berg. No stranger to stories like this his previous two films, ‘Deepwater Horizon’ & ‘Lone Survivor’, were both based on real life events. In addition to this they were both very good films. ‘Patriots Day’ sees the third collaboration between this director and actor Mark Wahlberg, who starred in the previously mentioned films. Berg has a tried and tested method for making these kinds of films work. He slowly introduces us to several characters. Allows audiences some insight into their lives, often very mundane elements of them. This makes viewers care for those on screen, giving even more weight to the well filmed drama that Berg produces. ‘Patriots Day’ is no different, it uses this formula once more. However, this could be the most effective use of it yet.
The film begins with the bombings and has all the aspects of a great disaster flick. Although the film then develops into a fascinating crime investigation. This gave the film another element that normal disaster flicks wouldn’t have. This section of the film was so interesting. It helped the audience to understand the scope of the operation. The techniques used to obtain as much intelligence as possible and the shear amount of people involved never ceased to engage me as a viewer. The use of real footage from the bombings and subsequent manhunt is done with great talent. It never becomes jarring despite mixing it with footage filmed specifically for this picture. This footage constantly reminds audiences that this really happened. There’s always some reservations with pictures based on tragedies like this. Especially when this happened so recently, often questions of sensitivity are raised. Any reservations about the timing of this film are however crushed due to the powerful message the film holds. As you would expect this message comes hand in hand with a lot of emotion. This is central to much of the film, especially the bookends. It draws you in and enhances the drama in every moment. What may come as a surprise to many though is the inclusion of humour within the film. ‘Patriots Day’ actually has some pretty big laughs in it. Some might expect this to disrupt the tone however these moments are few and far between. They work wonderfully thanks to the collaborative efforts of writers and cast members, never seeming out of place.
The film looks the part too. We are treated to many gorgeous aerial shots of Boston throughout the movie. These always looked very visually appealing and once more helped to showcase the scale of the manhunt. Watching the characters navigate the city was always thrilling and all the more intriguing. I don’t remember the manhunt being as widely reported on as the bombings, therefore my knowledge of the former was much lesser. The characters involved in the events of the film are played by a large ensemble cast. There are many well known names involved such as Kevin Bacon, John Goodman & lead actor Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg gets the most screen time and makes good use of it never wavering in his role. However it’s J.K.Simmons who almost completely steals the show with the few scenes he has playing a minor character. However, a pivotal one nonetheless. He brings much of the previously mentioned humour to the screen and as you’d expect has impeccable timing with it. There are so many supporting characters in the picture. When we are first introduced to them it’s hard to imagine their relevance. Berg masterfully puts in place his formula once again. In the process he humanises characters where other films/directors would hardly acknowledge them. Furthermore, his portrayal of the terrorists here is an insightful one, showing that their beliefs are just a normal part of their life. Terrorists have home lives too; they watch TV, eat cereal and wonder if cars have iPod docks. This was an eye-opening, albeit alarming, look at the criminals who caused this catastrophe.
‘Patriots Day’ is Berg’s and Wahlberg’s strongest collaboration to date. They have masterfully retold this true story offering insight at nearly every possible opportunity. As a result an engaging piece of film making has been produced. Offering emotional heft in abundance, humour in the right doses and strong messages to live by, this film is a beautiful tribute to all those affected by this tragic act of terror. It’s also a timely reminder of what can be achieved when we work together. Thank you Boston for this wonderful example.
Rating – 10/10
Question: What is your favourite Peter Berg film?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
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