I am all for films based on true events. While there is always artistic licence used to tell a story with that Hollywood sheen and involving factors that may or may not be accurate, I feel they are important to shed light on defining events many may not understand or have been aware of. I also support them if they evoke a message throughout, and ‘Patriots Day’ does just that.
It bring to light the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013 and also the manhunt that spread across the city. The message told is one of unity. Of standing together and of persevering against external pressure and conflicted morals. Many are familiar of the images of the bombing and the final moments of the manhunt, but this tells the story before and during to help us understand what went on. It is also, as the final credit reads, a tribute to those who were involved in the bombing itself and either lost their lives or risked theirs to help others.
Is it too early to tell such a story? Consider that ‘World Trade Center’ came only 5 years after the 9/11 attacks, this comes in just under 4 years. And in these dangerous times, it serves as a reminder of the fragile world we live in BUT also reminds us of what humanity can do when it stands together.
Firstly, it’s refreshing and noticeable that while Mark Wahlberg leads the cast, this is certainly an ensemble piece. Wahlberg gives us our everyday police officer caught up in the attack and is a focal point for being in the thick of the action, be it the bombing itself, the man-hunt and the final take down. He looks very much the ordinary guy here, not the glossy “one man hero” who solves and takes town the terrorist plot on his own. No, this is very much about a team and a city each playing a part.
The supporting cast, who sometimes take the lead and let Wahlberg support them, come in strong with the likes of John Goodman, J.K Simmons and Kevin Bacon. Even the two terrorists played by Alex Wolff and Theme Melikidze are a strong focal point on this story, not just pushed into the background as faceless suspects. It’s a strong cast coming together, each playing their part with a very down-to-earth and realistic tone that never comes across as overly dramatic or unwanted.
Minor characters are also given time to flesh out during the film so we can invest in their journey and see how normal people are caught up in such incidents we may never see in the media. Because of this, the events played out are more harrowing to see.
The production and directing is really well thought out. Within the first 30mins we have the bombing, and it is built up in a really uncomfortable way in which you know what’s coming and how, but just not sure when - and when it happens, it the pace never stops until the finale. You are thrown into the action with Wahlberg and stand by the likes of Goodman and Bacon as the painstaking process of hunting the bombers plays out. We are treated to horrific shots of wounds and the painful after-shock of the bombs, again making this a very real take on the event and not shying away from what we see or how we see it. But, with all this, it still came across as tastefully done to me.
Shying away from taking a swipe at modern politics, it focuses on how ordinary people come together in a city they love to protect it. The bombers and police are inter-cut together so we see both sides of the hunt and just what events rolled out during this, and they too were an eye-opener for me and really well paced and staged.
The action is tight and real, and devoid of a thrilling soundtrack, it opts for diegetic noise of gunshots, explosions and police sirens mixed with cries and shouts of help and commands. Don’t worry, this isn’t an action film and we only see action when it played out in real life as a crucial point of the story, not just because it looks good in a trailer. With most of the action taking place at night, the sense of fear and dread is always present thanks to the scenes being a little darker, murkier and generally eerie in a city locked down.
While the pace does slow a little in the middle, it doesn’t do it in a bad way at all, it just takes the time to understand the characters again and check in with them to see how they are coping during the hunt; even the bombers too are included so we understand motives and reasons behind these otherwise mindless actions.
For me this is better than any of the World Trade Center themed films we have had and really does the job of telling a real story but also giving us a resolution based on fact that will move you with glimmers of hope but also sadness. I came out of this with a lot more respect for the city of Boston and also a better understanding of the bombing itself and what the law does away from the spotlight to try and keep us protected at all costs that at times is all but forgotten.