My Review: 7 out of 10
This was a difficult movie to watch. Patriot’s Day very accurately recounts the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing from the events leading up to the event, the bombing itself, and the subsequent identification and capture of the bombers. The film looked into the lives of many people involved in the tragedy, including victims, police officers, the bombers, and others. Without a doubt, the strongest aspect of the film was its accuracy to the actual events, which was what made it so powerful and emotional. In addition, the filmmakers were careful to treat the story respectfully without brining strong political stances into the movie. I saw the film with friends of all different political opinions and we left the theatre with similar opinions on the actual movie itself.
Mark Wahlberg did a fantastic job in his role as Tommy Saunders, a police sergeant who didn’t actually exist, but was an amalgamation of numerous officers. As far as I am aware, Wahlberg’s character was the only one that was not directly based off of a real person. While this choice by the filmmakers certainly stands out, it was clearly done to allow Wahlberg to be present for the bombing, investigation, and the captures of both bombers. I didn’t think it was completely necessary to have a single character for the audience to relate to since the rest of the cast were incredible in their respective roles, it was an understandable choice. It would be difficult for anyone to watch this film and not feel emotional thanks to the topnotch performance of the actors involved.
While I appreciated the way that the filmmakers presented the story, my primary problems with the film were related to the choices they made. The scenes portraying the bombing were powerful and horrifying due to their realism. There were a handful of people crying in the audience during that part of the film. With this said, in my opinion, the depiction of the bombing was way too intense. It was far too gruesome, especially since the film didn’t really seem to know what message it wanted to get across to the audience. Some aspects of the movie seemed to celebrate vengeance, while other aspects explicitly explained that love and togetherness are the only ways to defeat evil. The depiction of the bombers and Katherine Russell was also mixed, which led to an uncomfortable portrayal of Dzhokhar (who is currently still alive on death row) as both a truly twisted individual and a somewhat goofy kid trying to impress his evil older brother.
In addition, some of the more difficult elements of the story are brought into the film, but glossed over, such as the interrogation of Katherine and the order not to read Miranda Rights to any of the suspects. I think the reason for these mixed messages and approaches is the attempt to avoid making a political statement with the movie and alienating a portion of the audience. This can be difficult since there is a fine line to walk when creating a movie about such a recent event. If you lean too heavily in one direction or the other, you can end up with something that is more a piece of propaganda than a piece of art. But trying to maintain a neutral approach to a politically charged event can result in a film that is dry or lacks introspection. While Patriot’s Day is anything but dry, it also doesn’t come close to the balanced and introspective approach of Eye in the Sky.
These critiques of the film don’t minimize its emotional intensity for me, but they do make me wonder why exactly Patriot’s Day was created so soon after the actual Boston Marathon Bombing. While I’m not normally one to question why works of art are created, movies about real life events are usually made for one of three reasons: (1) to tell a recent story that many people are unfamiliar with or are unfamiliar with certain elements of, (2) to tell an older story that has been told before in a fresh way for modern audiences, or (3) to tell a story in a way that shows a specific event, but also explores the ramifications of that event. Patriot’s Day doesn’t really fit into any of these categories. The elements of the story portrayed in the film are mostly things that we have all seen on the news and in documentaries. The only audiences who would be unfamiliar with the event would be those who are too young to grasp the enormity of it anyhow. And, since only 3 years have passed, we are still unsure of the distant ramifications of the tragedy.
Patriot’s Day is a good film that is well made and well cast, but it is very difficult to sit through and doesn’t leave you with much to talk about afterwards other than how emotional it made you feel. Only go see this one if you are prepared for how harrowing it is.