"Patriots Day" (2016 limited, 2017 wide-release) - Rated R / Runtime: 130 minutes
Directed by Peter Berg
Written by Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Joshua Zetumer
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon
Review by: JJ Mortimer
Director Peter Berg's masterful addition to his slate of true story-based dramas, Patriots Day deftly retells the traumatic events of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack in 2013 and the manhunt that followed, while seamlessly interweaving real footage into its narrative to help empower the emotional brevity the film maintains. The film teaches us that, despite the evil of men trying to bring a city (and an entire country) down to its knees, the strength of Boston's fellowship and love for the freedoms a country provides will help people rise above all that oppresses it.
I often find it difficult to write an extensive review on a film I overwhelmingly liked, so this may be short and sweet.
After the success of Lone Survivor, a film that many could argue as a modern day military masterpiece, director Peter Berg found his footing retelling true events using as much factual information that was available. His Deepwater Horizon was another good film using the same narrative beats, but Patriots Day may be his best work to date. On an emotional level, this film transcends the others because it involves people in a situation that we all can relate to. No military, no oil rigs in the middle of the ocean - just real, average, every day people caught amidst the depraved morality of evil men doing despicable things.
What makes Patriots Day so great is that Peter Berg and his editors, Gabriel Fleming and Colby Parker Jr., build tension, terror, drama, and small bits of humor to keep a very real situation from become too "glamorous" in film form. The film allows the audience to put itself into the shoes of multiple characters by building their stories early on in the film, leading us to wonder what part they will play as the movie progresses. As their individual scenes unfold, the film comes to a dramatic and emotional head that truly had me on the brink of tears as the final credits rolled.
Patriot Day's most surprising aspect of all, for me, was the powerful performance from Mark Wahlberg, who has been great in all three of Berg's true story dramas. Here he is at his best, never overacting and, being from Boston himself, feeling as though his duty was to pay tribute to the people who suffered in the days following April 15, 2013. Of all the actors in supporting roles, everyone played their true life counterparts as accurately and efficiently as possible, with special acknowledgment going the way of Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons as officer Jeff Pugliese, a man who some describe to this day as a real life "super hero." Any film with Simmons is immediately elevated by his presence alone.
Peter Berg has cemented himself a career, it seems, on recreating true stories and paying homage to the real people involved in the events. His pre-credits montages of actual pictures of the people being documented has become a welcome "common place," a motif that really nails home the emotional power a seemingly fictional story can hold, reminding us that, behind many "myths" and stories stands actual REAL people whose lives in many cases were lost. I look forward to the director's next fact-based endeavor, and in the same breath pray that no more horrific events like the Boston Marathon bombing take place that may inspire such films to be made.