Verdict: The true hero of the movie is the city of Boston itself.
There’s always a possibility that having famous actors in a retelling of a true event will detract from the event, but that’s not the case for Patriots Day. Peter Berg manages to have a star-cast that lends to the story rather than detract from it. The movie is the retelling of the pressure-cooker bombings that took place during the marathon on Patriots Day in Boston in 2013. Three people lost their lives to the bombings and several hundred were injured.
Mark Wahlberg plays the role of Tommy Saunders from Boston Police Department. Being a native Bostonian in real life, the movie is quite close to him. Even though the movie begins with him, he is not the focus. With the first few minutes of the opening, we are introduced to numerous people who are revisited throughout the movie and each of them is equally important. The bombers are also introduced and the movie follows them closely, but it does not make you sympathize with them. They are the villains with no shades of gray and their motives aren’t explored beyond their belief in radical Islam and anti-American feelings.
There is an impending sense of doom until the bombings happen and even after, it doesn’t let up on the pace. Patriots Day follows the manhunt for the suspects hour by hour, giving us an insight into how the law enforcement caught the bombers. This isn’t a movie that shows you the fancy gadgets used to catch criminals. There are familiar methods used to find the suspects, whether it's looking through CCTV footage or a plain-old recreation of the crime scene. The bombings themselves are grisly, and Berg does not shy away from showing us every bit of it. It’s scary that it happened, but the bombers did get caught within hundred hours.
From a Chinese Cambridge student to a young married couple, you will care about every single person on the screen. The tension doesn’t let up until the very end, where the movie closes with the real people talking about the disastrous event they went through and survived.
It has many unexpected moments. Unless you followed the bombings closely, you might not know how the events unfold. The people might die at any moment, just like it happened in real life. Every scene in the movie is impressive considering the fact that it was all very real. There is not a lot of embellishment to the real-life incidents, apart from Mark Wahlberg playing a fictional character who was an amalgamation of several people.
The casting was spectacular with the Tsarnaev brothers looking eerily similar to the real ones. Jimmy O. Yang plays the Cambridge student Dun Yeng, who shares a chilling moment with the bombers. J. K. Simmons plays a familiar authority figure role of Jeffrey Pugliese and has a remarkable action scene in the climax of the film at the Watertown shootout. Even the minor characters who are only on the screen for a few minutes give a great performance.
The movie is scored by Academy-winning composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and the music perfectly plays along with the events. It’s subtle and it perfectly complements the film without overshadowing it.
Patriots Day feels very close to Berg’s last film, Deepwater Horizon, which was also based on real events and starred Mark Wahlberg. Still, the movie manages to be a worthy and respectful tribute to the Boston bombings, while being a solid film in itself. It’s informative and also moving. Patriots Day will make you question what you would do in a similar situation. The people shown in the movie were normal, everyday people who showed enormous resilience and courage. The ending is especially moving as you find out through first-hand accounts how the event changed people's lives forever.
Why You Should Watch This Movie:
More than the dramatization of a real event, Patriots Day is a great thriller. It is a tribute to the real-life heroes who survived the American tragedy, but it not only glorifies the American spirit but also the universal human spirit of unity. At times it's sad and at times it's suspenseful and thrilling. This is a movie that’s well worth your time.