After telling the real-life heroic stories of people undergoing extreme and harrowing events in Lone Survivor and earlier this fall in Deepwater Horizon, director Peter Berg and star-producer Mark Wahlberg have collaborated again for the inside story behind the heroes who cracked the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing case in Patriots Day. Although all three movies come from a place of wanting to honor courageous actions in the face of unspeakable tragedy, this one has an impact that goes beyond the previous two movies — it not only combines exceptional filmmaking on every level, but also packs an emotional punch I didn’t see coming.
As I say in my video review above, you might think you already know this story, but in fact Berg along with his co-screenplay writers Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer have much more in mind, taking us behind the scenes after the bombing to reveal with almost documentary-style detail how the city went into action and caught the two brothers who committed these heinous crimes. The film sets up some of the main characters early on pretty much in the same way we’ve seen in countless disaster movies, but it takes a real turn after the bombing and chronicles the incredibly complex and far-reaching operation that immediately went into effect.
Most of the characters are based on the real people involved, with the key exception Wahlberg’s Sgt. Tommy Saunders, a compilation of officers on duty that day that were there right when the bombing occurred and dove into action. He and his wife Carol (Michelle Monaghan) are perhaps the emotional center of Patriots Day, along with the bombing’s survivors. But the real thrust of this behind-the-scenes account involves several officials who take over the city for a manhunt to track down the two brothers who become prime suspects.
How this all happens is absolutely fascinating, beginning with the arrival of the FBI and Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon), who uses a warehouse to re-create entire city streets and the crime scene; Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), who runs the show with nerves of steel; Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese (JK Simmons), the Watertown cop who finds himself in the middle of a shootout with the culprits; Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (Michael Beach); Dun Meng (an excellent and scene-stealing Jimmy O. Yang), the young Chinese man who was carjacked and kidnapped by the pair, only to turn the tables on them; and of course the Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan (Themo Meilikidze) and the younger Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff), who both look and act so eerily like the real thing it is positively chilling to watch them.
Berg follows all of these characters, weaving their particular stories in and out of the narrative with exceptional skill and precision. With this film he also proves again what a superb director of pulse-pounding action sequences he has become. Patriots Day works not only as an edge-of-your-seat thriller that will have you biting your nails off, but also as a movie about heroes of every stripe, making this film not only welcome at this time but necessary. In addition to what has come to be known as Boston Strong or Boston Proud, all of these filmmakers should also take great pride in this remarkable motion picture.
Producers in addition to Wahlberg are Dorothy Aufiero, Dylan Clark, Stephen Levinson, Hutch Parker, Michael Radutzky and Scott Stuber. It comes from CBS Films, with Lionsgate handling distribution beginning in limited release tomorrow and going wide January 13.
Do you plan to see Patriots Day? Let us know what you think.