Sunday, January 15, 2017

Patriots Day

Year: 2016
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, Alex Wolff, Themo Melikidze, Michael Beach

Plot: Based on the true story of the Boston Marathon bombings on April 19, 2013, from the points of view of the Boston police, victims and the bombers, and the manhunt that led to the bombers' capture.

Review: A quick follow up to the recent Deepwater Horizon, Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg's Patriots Day is a more solid piece of work. Despite the strong qualities of the former, the result was underwhelming for me and it underperformed at the box office. This latest effort proves to be much better.

Patriots Day can be divided into two parts; the first being the morning that leads into the Boston Marathon and the blast, and the chaos that followed, and the second being the bombers' attempt to flee as the police and FBI organize an intense manhunt to nab them. Berg, who also co-wrote the screenplay, directs this film extremely well, keeping the flow of the story steady and never stalling too long at any time.

What I liked the most about Patriots Day however, is Berg's slick move to establish multiple points of view of the entire story. We get the police, the FBI, the victims and the bombers themselves, each with believable stories to tell. While the film is essentially a drama, it also works as a thriller, with two blood pumping set pieces; one being the blast and the other an intense firefight between the bombers and the police later on in the film, which is by far the best scene of them all.

Mark Wahlberg excels in the role of Tommy Saunders, which is a fictional role, an amalgamation of Boston cops during that time. While Wahlberg is great here, one cannot overlook the work of veterans like John Goodman as the police commissioner, Kevin Bacon as the FBI agent in charge and J.K. Simmons as the sergeant who shot one of the terrorists in the firefight. Also worth mentioning is Jimmy O. Yang as Dun Meng, a Chinese guy whose act of bravery after being carjacked by the bombers is admirable. Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze also shine as the pair of Muslim brothers who executed the attacks. Basically, the entire cast brings their A game to the field, and the film works because of that.

Berg has certainly done his homework very well here, as nearly every aspect of the story is covered and it all comes together perfectly, making Patriots Day much closer to Lone Survivor than Deepwater Horizon in terms of quality. As a viewer, I felt like I was immersed in that world for the film's entirety, and I was genuinely concerned for everyone, from the cops to the victims. It's a compelling story and very well told.

As with previous Berg true stories, he makes time for the real faces to step forward at the end, and though I appreciate the effort, I felt it would be better if he made this part a bit more concise. Still, it doesn't ruin the film significantly, and it's something I can easily forgive.

Overall I was incredibly pleased by Patriots Day, a welcome return to form by Peter Berg. It's undoubtedly one of the best films of the year, and it's only January. (8.5/10) 

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