‘Patriots Day’ a Solid, Respectful Thriller with a Few Stumbles

patriots_day_filmThis, “Lone Survivor,” “Deepwater Horizon”… guess Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg are just going to spend the rest of their careers making films about recent tragedies.

“Patriots Day” is about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and its subsequent manhunt. Mark Wahlberg, J. K. Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon and Michelle Monaghan all star as Peter Berg directs.

It can be argued that releasing a film about an event like the Boston Marathon bombing less than four years after it took place is too soon, and some may say making a film about it at all is an exploitive move by Hollywood. But those are arguments for another article on another day. We have the film regardless, and what it is is a workmanlike drama that serves as a fitting tribute to the 2013 victims, although not without flaws.

Mark Wahlberg is at the point of his career where he pretty much plays versions of his real life self in films and this is no different. He was Mark Wahlberg as a Drill Engineer in “Deepwater Horizon,” Mark Wahlberg as a Bodybuilder in “Pain & Gain” and Mark Wahlberg as literally Mark Wahlberg in “Entourage.” Here he is Mark Wahlberg as a Police Officer and he does a solid job, especially in one scene where he sheds his tough guy persona and breaks down in tears in front of his wife (Michelle Monahan, impactful in a limited role).

The rest of the cast does a good job and illustrates to stress put on the officers and agents in charge with locating the Tsarnaev brothers. The FBI (led by Kevin Bacon) and the BPD (headed by John Goodman) argue about whether or not to release the photos of their suspects to the public and the increasing pressure from the media for answers. Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff, who portray the brothers, both are solid at putting us in the mindset of the bombers and the relationship they had, although their motivations are never really explored.

It is interesting to see how the authorities managed to piece together the tiny bits of information they had to find the actual perpetrators, and there are several moments of genuine tension, especially one that had my hands sweating and my heart racing.

The film’s narrative is a little choppy at times, as it introduces numerous individual stories that eventually intersect. While each story comes into play some feel more important than others, and it can be argued that one or two of them didn’t need developing and could have just come into play the moment the film actually needed them. This creates some pacing issues, especially when the film feels like it is building to the climax only to still have 45 minutes remaining.

“Patriots Day” is a solidly crafted thriller, and given its content it is respectfully made. Wahlberg gives an expectedly good performance, and the supporting cast compliments him well. The bombing sequence and the epilogue may come off as uncomfortable for some viewers but they go to show the power of the human spirit and, as victim Patrick Downes puts it, how it took months to plan evil but only an instance to act on love.

Critics Rating: 7/10

CBS Films/Lionsgate

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