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As I watched this film about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the manhunt that happened afterwards, my initial thoughts was that this hollywood film (Directed by Peter Berg) was too soon to make. That emotions would still be too raw – and exploit that tragic day and disrespect the lives who were lost (3 deaths) and those who were badly injured.
After watching it – it doesn’t do that at all. It shows the horrific event in harrowing detail but keeps it totally authentic and real, almost documentary-like. It respects and honors the victims as well as the first responders, the cops, FBI, and the innocent people who were involved.
What the film shows is how a community rallies together to help its people – in this case, the city of Boston who after the incident rallied under the cry “Boston Strong”.
This film dramatically shows the tragedy through looking at different accounts of real life characters who played a part in the bombing as well as the investigation and capture of the two terrorists.
Director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) seems compelled to make movies where the subject matter is based on true and tragic real-life events (he’s also directed ‘Lone Survivor’ and ‘Deepwater Horizon’ which also star Mark Wahlberg), and he certainly doesn’t hide away from showing the moment of the actual bombing – editing in real life footage with the staged settings of the Boston Marathon.
All three of Berg’s movies neatly fit the definition of what Rolling Stone describes as the “neo-patriotic blockbuster” – movies whose heroes wear blue collars rather than cowboy hats or capes.
And it’s these blue collar heroes that main actor Mark Wahlberg thrives on. He doesn’t hide his love for his hometown of Boston and it’s certainly a ballsy move for him to play a fictional character (Police Sgt Tommy Saunders) amongst the real-life characters of the film. There’s one scene where he becomes an important clog in the manhunt which is certainly created for dramatic purposes but in the scheme of things, it works and he manages to get away with it.
Despite that, the rest of the cast is a solid ensemble piece playing real-life characters: John Goodman playing Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis and Kevin Bacon as FBI Special Agent Dick Laurieseier offer noble support, and there is a great performance from one of my favourite all-time character actors J K Simmons playing Watertown Police Sargeant Jeffrey Pugiliese who was one of the main officers at the scene of the final shoot-out between the two terrorists (below). That shootout scene is extremely intense to watch.
Also a special mention goes to Danny ‘Dun’ Meng (played by Jimmy Yang) who was ‘car-jacked’ by the two terrorists as they stole his car – who not only managed to escape, but gave the cops the important GPS number on his car to track down the terrorists. His story is one of an ordinary person, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time – and showing bravery under extreme circumstances. The film really shows this in vivid detail and it was great to see an interview of the real-life Dun talk about his ordeal (which is in the special features).
The film certainly doesn’t forget the victims of the bombing – showing the heartfelt and tragic stories interspersed with the manhunt. From the young officer killed at the University during the manhunt, to the story of real life couple Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes who both lost one of their legs from the bombing – it’s these moments that hit hardest emotionally – but they also reveal the resilience and triumph of the human spirit, where at the end of the film we see actual footage of the 2014 Boston Marathon and a triumphant Patrick Downes finishing the race – running with a prosthetic leg, hugging his wife Jessica at the finish line, a year after the bombing. That was great moment to see.
After watching the tragic events unfold of terror attacks this year over in Europe – this film definitely struck a chord – and as Director Peter Berg explains, this film is about overcoming that evil. With love. His heart is definitely in the right place;
“Mark and I both wanted to make a film about love. A film about: ‘You know what? If you think you’re going to beat us through violence, you’re wrong. Because love will rise, love will defeat evil. At the end of the day, the story was about how a community responded to kind of what unfortunately is becoming the new reality of our lives.”
‘Patriots Day’ is definitely worth a watch.