Director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg team up for the third time—and second time in a year—to bring audiences Patriots Day, the film about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Is this the pair’s best film yet or should they start to see other people again?
Wahlberg plays Tommy Saunders, who is a composite character of a bunch of cops that participated in the events leading up to and following the Boston Marathon bombing. So, you’ll be forgiven if you find it hard to believe how Tommy ends up in the middle of every major event following the crime. Many of the actors play real life people in the film including John Goodman as Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis and Kevin Bacon as FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers, the man who headed the investigation. The film covers the entire story, from the marathon right through to the apprehension of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) several days later. It also does a good job introducing the audience to the people affected by the tragedy and keeping their stories ever-present in our minds as the investigation continues. It’s a delicate balancing act and Berg pulls it off very well. None of the characters’ stories felt tacked on or extraneous. We also get to see the perpetrators, Dzhokhar, his brother Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze), and Tamerlan’s wife, Katherine Russell (Melissa Benoist). Tamerlan is the more unstable of the two brothers and planned the bombing, but Dzhokhar is presented as a lackadaisical kid—clearly Americanized—who is only involved for the cheap thrill of it all. Rightly so, you will loathe these two by the end of the film, but it might have been nice to have gotten some kind of insight into why they did what they did. They’re kind of relegated to “typical jihadists” even though Dzhokhar clearly doesn’t have his head in the game.
The cast is stellar. I didn’t even recognize Benoist as Russell and she plays her as a complete enigma, but I think that may be because it still hasn’t been determined just how much she had to do with the crime. J.K. Simmons is great as always as Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese, who served in Watertown, where Dzhokhar was finally captured. I also enjoyed Jimmy O. Yang of Silicon Valley as a young man who crosses paths with the bombers.
Overall, Patriots Day is a solid crime procedural and definitely worth a watch. It doesn’t do anything spectacular, but it is entertaining and it really makes you feel for the victims of this senseless attack. The film is hindered a bit by the fact that this event is so recent and everyone pretty much knows how it all played out, but I enjoyed myself despite knowing that. Check it out.