Peter Burg and Mark Wahlberg team up for the second time in 2016 to tackle a movie about disaster that happened not too long ago. After the success of Deepwater Horizon, I was curious to see if they could duplicate that magic in Patriots Day, a movie following the events of the 2013 Boston bombing. I know people have their thoughts as to whether this movie should even exist, but I don’t really see the problem with it as long as it’s handled with the sensitivity and respect it deserves. I believe this film accomplishes that.
What jumps out immediately from this movie is the cast. A cast that includes Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, J.K Simmons, Kevin Bacon, and Michelle Monaghan is one that I am immediately interested in watching. The problem here is that the content doesn’t allow anyone outside of Wahlberg to get any significant time on screen. The only other big name that I was interested in was Kevin Bacon, who played the lead FBI investigator on the case. He fit really well and delivered what he could with the amount of lines he was given. Mark Wahlberg does take advantage of his screen time by giving a great performance. He’s a local police officer that witnesses all of these events transpire. My only problem is that he’s the only fictional character in the movie. Everyone else plays a person that was involved in the incident, while Wahlberg is just there. He does good in that role, but it feels a bit unnecessary and inauthentic the more I think about it. Other than him, Jimmy O. Yang is the other really strong performance in the movie. He plays Dun Meng, who is the man that eventually gets kidnapped by the bombers. The tension he helped build in those scenes were some of my favorite parts of the movie.
Peter Burg’s directing in the movie is good for the most part. He utilizes a lot of handheld camera shots, which helps considering the candid nature of the movie. These type of shots help bring home the horror of the bombs once they go off. The actual bomb scene was shot beautifully, and the aftermath is as heartbreaking as you could probably imagine. There are a few shots that made me question the movie though. I know that we should be sad considering these events actually happened, so why did Berg feel it was necessary to add shots that are clearly there to emotionally manipulate us. It took me out of the movie watching as they continuously go back to a shot of an officer standing over a body. There was also a pretty heavy handed introduction to the bombers at the beginning of the movie. I know they wanted us to know that they were the villains, but there was a subtler way to get that point across.
Easily the best parts of the movie come after the bombs went off and the search for the bombers began. That’s when you really get to see the FBI and the Boston Police Officers come together to try and find these guys as soon as possible. Kevin Bacon’s character is the level headed person on the case. He guides the investigation in what he believes is the right way, despite how emotional and irrational the people around him were at times.
Once the bombers go on the run, that’s when the tension really starts to build. The scene where they meet up with Jimmy O. Yang’s character was great, especially when you consider what the bombers had done prior to meeting up with him. It created this atmosphere where one wrong move could get you killed. After the police start to get involved we get a pretty intense shoot out scene that has a lot of crazy stuff happen. This is the only scene where J.K Simmons does anything of substance in the entire movie.
Eventually, the movie wraps up with a climax that I honestly didn’t like. I understand that the movie is based on real events so there’s way less freedom with how things can play out, but the whole moment fell flat with me. The only thing that worked was at the very end of the film, seeing the relief in the eyes of everyone involved. That sense of solidarity showed the strength of those who did their best to get these two terrorists caught. Ultimately, that was the message of the film, and they delivered that part well.
Overall, Patriots Day is an okay movie that made a few questionable decisions. I liked the cast and the directing style of the movie, but the under utilization of those actors and the manipulative shots bog down the film. Mark Wahlberg gives one of his best performances, but his actual purpose in the film isn’t really justified. There are some tense moments while the investigation is going on, but it eventually leads up to a scene that falls flat. The message of the movie was executed pretty well though. As a tribute to the victims and the people responsible for catching these guys, the movie works.
Patriots Day gets a 70/100