Review: Patriots Day

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Simple, spoiler free reviews.

On April 15, 2013,  two bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon. In the aftermath of the attack, police Sgt. Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers and Commissioner Ed Davis joined the courageous survivors, first responders and other investigators in a race against the clock to hunt down the suspects and bring them to justice before they can attack again.

Patriots Day is a well acted and intense film that focuses prominently on the manhunt post the Boston Marathon bombings. Honestly it’s quite good, I’m really surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. At times you are on the edge of your seat while at others laughing out loud as the human spirit shines through. I thought it would just turn out to be one big piece of American propaganda, but it’s actually a solid and respectful drama based on a horrible event. It doesn’t glamorise the act of terrorism and isn’t scared of showing you some of the horror that was created.

I have to make a special mention to the music and general ambience that constantly builds tension throughout key scenes. It can be really quite unnerving.

Onto the downside of Patriots Day. I was all ready to sing this films praises from start to finish but then while I was prepping to write this review  I discovered that Mark Wahlberg’s character is actually fictional and it just knocked some of the shine off the whole thing for me.

Now I understand that from the Hollywood perspective it is better to have a protagonist who is heavily involved in the plot. However Wahlberg’s Tommy Saunders goes beyond being a pair of eyes for the audience to watch through. Every major story beat revolves around him. He’s the one who rallies the troops in the immediate fallout after the attack, he’s the one who goes to the 991 calls, he’s the one at the fire fights, he’s effectively the one who wins the day. If this was any other crime drama film I wouldn’t complain about this, it tells a better story. Yet, isn’t it a little disrespectful to heap so much praise on a fictional character when real people, mere years ago, did so much to actually find the bombers? Patriots Day really wants to play of the Boston Strong movement, but in hindsight it feels more like ‘if that one character is strong, we’ll all be okay I guess’ movement. The logic is that Tommy Saunders is a mixture of multiple different police officers who were on duty. It’s just the mixture of real life and fiction that doesn’t quite mesh. It seems off, but in reality probably doesn’t do to much damage.

Ultimately however, I still really enjoyed the film. So, while it’s not fully based on true events it is still very good. Was it made slightly too soon, considering it has only been 4 years since the attack? Probably. Would I have preferred a more accurate representation of the facts even if it meant not having Mark Wahlberg in the lead role. Probably.

Do I recommend this film? Absolutely.

Verdict: Thumbs Up

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