It was a recent tragedy that laid the foundations for Peter Berg’s preceding endeavour to thrive off, taking the oil spill of 2010 and bringing it to the big screen in Deepwater Horizon. Now the filmmaker returns, this time casting his eye over the marathon bombings in Boston back in 2013, and tonally, both films are almost identical. Following a familiar formula and approach to storytelling, Patriot’s
Another common strand between the two films is to have Mark Wahlberg in the leading role, this time playing Sgt. Tommy Saunders, on duty during the busiest day of the year; the marathon. Though the maximised police presence can do little to prevent the terrorist attack that transpires, as brothers Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) detonate their home-made nail bombs, killing three innocent civilians, and injuring countless others. Naturally this alerts the FBI and an investigation ensues, as Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) and Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) head up the case, resulting in an uncompromising cat and mouse chase across the streets of Boston, while the wife of the perpetrator Katherine Russell (Melissa Benoist) is taken in for questioning.
The way Berg intertwines real life footage, be it images from the attack, or authentic CCTV, is effective, serving the narrative well and maximising the emotional impact of this story, reminding us that this is a real attack, and people lost their lives. The casting of the bombers is so well-judged too, meaning that when we see CCTV footage of them it doesn’t require a suspension of disbelief, as the actors portraying them are physically identical.
But it’s the structure and pacing which allows Patriot’s Day to thrive, similarly to Deepwater Horizon in how Berg introduces several of the characters early on, each revelling in the notion of mundanity, going about their day, buying coffee, going out for dinner, each unaware of what is about to hit them. It’s interesting how the story is pieced together too, as some characters we get to know and have no idea how they will eventually fit into this tale, which all becomes abundantly clear as we progress. This film is a real masterclass in the notion of storytelling, and with the commitment to realism, it makes for a truly challenging film to sit through.
Wahlberg, in the meantime, works well as the film’s lead, and he’s an actor it’s easy to put your faith in and believe in as a hero. The fact he has an injured knee is a nice touch too, humanising him and showing off his flaws and fragilities. Though that being said, the role itself seems a little superfluous, and while appreciating the fact that the actor’s involvement helps with green-lighting projects of this nature, the emphasis on his role can be distracting at times, as the far more intriguing story is that of the victims and perpetrators, and the time spent with Tommy Saunders does feel like time we could be spending investing in other roles that make up this captivating, and truly devastating tale.
Patriot’s Day is released on February 23rd