Peter Berg’s Patriots day is one of those films where going in, it may feel a bit like a “Rah Rah America!” exercise in propaganda. And while, to a certain extent, it may very well be, it is also one of Berg’s better efforts.
Patriots Day is the story of the Boston Marathon bombing and the manhunt that ensued for the Tsarnaev brothers. The film is most effective in how it is not about “one guy” in all of it. Mark Wahlberg’s Tommy Saunders is our eyes for much of the film, but it takes detours to give us insights into the people impacted who were not part of the manhunt. And this works very nicely, even if, at the beginning, it feels a bit like “Why are we meeting this person?”
This leads to one of the most powerful aspects of the film. It captures the absolute chaos of those couple of days. The intense search for leads o catch the brothers, the desperation of the brothers to escape, the evil that they were willing to for their “cause”. The horror of the people hurt in the bombing trying to find loved ones they have been separated. This is all extremely well done.
The one moment to take me out of the film, however, was what felt like a mini-documentary in which the actual people spoke on camera. I get that it may be a tribute…but it really felt like Berg did not trust the audience to have the “correct mindset” exiting the film. It also distracted me because there is no interview or mention of Tommy Saunders and his wife. This is because they do not exist. They are a combination of people. Had there been no “Here are the real people” moment, this would not have stood out so glaringly for men.
However, this is really a minor issue for an otherwise strong film.