(Patriots Day, 2017)
A city-wide manhunt.
By Jak Luke Sharp
Peter Berg is a director that repeatedly makes very similar films that adapt true or political stories, adding strong character depth and atmosphere, with the result, for the most part, being pretty good. He has shown that he can make gripping and thrilling fiction in the The Kingdom (2007), and shown he can bring real-life situations such as Lone Survivor (2013) and Deepwater Horizon (2016) to the screen by blending focus on the characters and the events equally. Berg seems to have found his niche in bringing hard-hitting true events to the screen and has a successful trait of showing the power of what people can accomplish. A film about the Boston Marathon Bombings that injured 264 people and killed 3 would be a huge undertaking for any filmmaker, not only because the event is fresh in the minds of most Americans but also to how Hollywood has handled such events in the past. However, the tonal intensity in Patriots Day leaves you in a state of awe.
From the very first minute the film highlights that there are two major characters at play: the city and the people. Both start with a sense of freedom and integrity, until the tragic events unfold where both are separated from each other. The film then focuses on the law enforcement and the teams tracking and working endlessly to find the culprits, and, due to a focus on city and characters, the film is incredibly immersive and tense throughout. The scene where there is a terrorist strike is incredibly brutal and is caught brilliantly by Berg and his team who capture the intensity with added elements of horror. The scene that shows the aftermath is rather gruesome and harsh, yet undoubtedly the best scene in the film, it is unfiltered and is not watered down for benefit of gruesome realism. The film then has a complete shift in its tone where it starts becoming more like a thriller and unfortunately the strong focus on character gets lost in the action.
Wahlberg leads the film though does not do much, does not have a great deal of range, and is either over the top or incredibly subdued. One scene between Wahlberg and his wife, played by Michelle Monaghan, is incredible, however, where Wahlberg finally showcases an immense amount of talent in the space of a few seconds. Despite this small scene, the work of supporting cast is where the film stands out from the crowd; John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, and Kevin Bacon are all excellent, each having integral parts in the film and give a great delivery of dialogue from what is a rather underwritten screenplay. And Monaghan is given arguably the most fleshed out character; the performance is good but in the third act she is left too much on the sidelines and the climatic event takes over everything.