Patriots Day SPOILER-FREE Review
The events of Patriots Day, the Boston Marathon bombing, is very close to me. I am from the Boston area, so I was in the direct circle of grieving when it happened. The resilience of the city and the "Boston Strong" movement was absolutely incredible to watch unfold in real life. I remember watching the investigation into the Tsarnaev Brothers on TV, and I honestly thought to myself "Wow, this is just like a movie!" However, the fact that Mark Wahlberg would star in a biopic about the event, just three years after the events, did worry me. It did seem a little soon to turn this horribly tragic event into a motion picture. But if anyone was going to do it and do it right, it was going to be Boston-native Wahlberg, teamed with director Peter Berg. The two have worked on Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon together, and so far they've made magic. Deepwater Horizon this year was an especially good disaster film, that handled a crisis in a non-sensationalizing way. You can read our review for that film here. So, I was excited and nervous for Patriots Day at the same time. I wasn't sure how they were going to handle it. Suffice to say, they handled it beautifully. Patriots Day is one of the best films of the year, handled with a lot of grace, dignity and respect.
Tommy Saunders (Wahlberg) helps spearhead the investigation into figuring out who bombed the Boston Marathon, while also trying to help heal a devastated city.
There are so many ways this movie could have gone wrong. It could've been too brutal and gory with its depiction of what happened. It also could've sensationalized it, and turned it into an action movie. But instead, it walks an incredibly thin tightrope that results in a perfectly balanced movie. It's brutal enough to show the horrors inflicted on the city of Boston, but not too brutal to overdo it. It's entertaining enough to keep audiences enthralled, but not too entertaining to make it feel like a Jason Statham action film or something. It perfectly weaves in humor and heartbreak to make a total package of a film that I don't think could've been done any better. It's not a perfect film, but I don't think you could've made a better movie about the Boston Marathon bombings. It serves to put a spotlight on the heroes who worked endlessly to save lives, and to garner respect for those who were injured or died. Once you see the way it's made, you can't think of a better way to make this film. I attribute this to the excellent writing by Peter Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer, and the incredible direction by Berg. The two elements of the film really work in tandem to create this stunning piece of art.
The performances all around are also fantastic. This is the most vulnerable I've ever seen Mark Wahlberg. He's usually this built-up tough guy, and he is for the beginning for the film. But as soon as the bombing happens, his character is humbled. It's something I haven't seen from Wahlberg before, and it was fascinating to watch. John Goodman, Kevin Bacon and J.K. Simmons were all great in their roles. Goodman did struggle with his Boston accent, but I forgave him because of how much I love the guy. Michelle Monaghan was also great as Tommy's wife. She provided an emotional anchor that was great despite being limited. She wasn't in the movie all that much. I really liked her and Wahlberg's dynamic, and I wish the movie had more of it. The performances by Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze as the Tsarnaev Brothers were really good. The film gives them a lot more screen time than I was expecting. At first, I didn't think it was a good idea, but as the film progresses, I came to realize it was a genius way to craft this movie. The film isn't necessarily giving us their point of view. We're not supposed to empathize or sympathize with them in any way. Instead, it works to make them human characters, instead of just nameless terrorists.
In terms of negatives, I have a few. Like I said before, I think Michelle Monaghan's character could've been used more. Patriots Day really didn't have a lot of central female characters, and I think it missed an opportunity with under-utilizing Monaghan. I also don't think it did enough to differentiate the extremist Muslims shown in the film from the rest of the Islamic community. The film's purpose is not to make a statement or to bash you over the head with a message, but it needed to do a little more. Probably inadvertently, the film does take on an Americans vs. Muslims view, which is the absolute wrong way to go. I think you could've had something, even if it was just one line, or representation of Muslims who had zero association to the terrorists, that would've worked to show the audience that the actions of the Tsarnaev Brothers are the work of extremists and not the work of an entire religion. That was an important distinction that I don't think Patriots Day butchered, but I think they could've done better.
Overall, Patriots Day is an absolutely gripping and completely compelling film. It finds the perfect balance in telling the story of the Boston Marathon bombing, handling the rather recent events with total respect. Peter Berg delicately navigates his way through the film, making the best film I think you can make about the Boston Marathon bombing. The performances are all fantastic. However, I would have liked to have seen some more of Michelle Monaghan, since the movie doesn't really have any central female characters. I also wish they better made the distinction between the Islamic extremists depicted in the film, and the rest of the Muslim community, since there is a huge difference and the movie doesn't do much to diversify the two groups. But overall, Patriots Day is a brilliant film that handles this tragedy with the utmost care and respect, and is one of my favorite movies of this year.
What do you think? Have you seen Patriots Day? Did you like the film? Leave your (spoiler-free) thoughts in the comments section below.
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