How soon is too soon? That’s the question that will be continually swirling around your head as you watch Patriots Day.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Patriots Day casts Marky Mark as a fictitious average Joe named Tommy Saunders – a disgraced cop who rises to the occasion when tragedy strikes during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. The film then follows the events as they unfolded in real-life, depicting the citywide manhunt and media storm surrounding the attack.
Patriots Day is the kind of movie where every character swigs Budweiser, plays Call of Duty and barracks for the Red Sox. Each scene is coated with the same thick, sticky layer of saccharine Americana that we’ve come to expect from the likes of director Peter Berg.
Granted, there is a really touching epilogue that attempts to recalibrate the film as a more sensitive docudrama – complete with talking heads from survivors and witnesses – which sends the film out on a high. The message of joining arms and running into danger to help others is really sweet too, but it feels very conflicted with the chest-thumping, flag-waving film that Berg also feels compelled to tell.
If it wasn’t already evident, I’m very torn on what to think of Patriots Day. On the one hand, it’s a heartfelt tribute to the victims and the city of Boston as a whole. Berg, Wahlberg and all involved seem eager to ‘get it right’, so to speak. The filmmaking, editing and cinematography all range from good to genuinely great, and the bombing itself is a visceral scene that plants you in the moment and shakes you to the core. We see it through the eyes of those who were there, making the film a surreal, emotional and sometimes haunting experience.
On the other hand, it’s a fantasy yarn that turns actual, recent tragedy and suffering into glossy, misty-eyed myths. It’s the kind of film that I can imagine Donald Trump sitting down to watch right before signing another round of executive orders banning anyone vaguely foreign from setting foot in ‘the real America’. Maybe that’s unfair; maybe I’m letting politics get in the way of something that is purely for entertainment value.
At the end of the day, nothing can take away from the fact that Wahlberg has now put in two genuinely great performances in the last six months. Unburdened by politics, Deepwater Horizon definitely did it better – Patriots Day is a bit more complicated.
The rest of the cast – JK Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon and Michelle Monaghan – do what they can with what their given while Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor serve up another memorable score. Sorry Patriots Day; I know your heart is in the right place, but I think we’re all a little burned out on hearing about great America is right now.
Patriots Day is available in Australian cinemas from February 2
Image courtesy of Roadshow Films