PATRIOTS DAY is the third collaboration between director Peter Berg and leading man Mark Wahlberg. And like the previous two movies, LONE SURVIVOR and DEEPWATER HORIZON, this too is based on a real-life incident. A formula that Berg is perfecting, this time he opts to retell the tragic Boston Marathon bombings of 2013, with a screenplay based on the book, Boston Strong.
Mark Wahlberg plays a fictional character, Tommy Saunders, whom the writers planted in the screenplay as a binding factor, while the narrative span across the events from the day of the tragic Marathon day right until the capture of the actual bombers.
Introduced as a hot-headed Boston homicide detective, Saunders is currently serving a suspension which sees him demoted and getting handed over a crowd-control duty at the marathon event. And the event, as always, attracts an energetic crowd of all ages as they come together to cheer this annual sporting event that takes place on the Patriots Day holiday.Besides Saunders, we have also introduced a host of other crucial characters, all of whom will be pulled in and affected by the tragedy that ensues. Also, we spent time in the homes of the Tsarnaev brothers, where we meet them as they prepare to commit the terrible act.
Once the bomb goes off, we witness the horrors at the site that resulted in the death of three civilians and leaving 264 others injured. However once that is done away with it, the narration gets down to the business of nabbing the culprits, which sees the various law enforcing bodies join hands and work towards their goal with urgency.
Though a fictionalised retelling, the makers have ensured to stick to the facts despite the fictitious lead character. The movie though starts off on a docu-drama mode, it quickly plays out like a suspense-laden investigative thriller. Director Berg manages to amp the tension and the mood in the proceedings as we watch the law enforcers go about their tasks. For the most part, Berg rises to the challenge of keeping the viewers engaged despite most of them knowing exactly how the events play out.
What is noticeable is the makers never really try to exploit the events or characters for the sake of gripping narration. This is by large a ‘by the headline’ approach and runs through the beats of the real events without actually shaking anything up.
But what it also means is that there is no much exploring either. The screenplay never really lends the space for the writers to develop any of the characters. Instead, it is contended in letting the big names like John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J K Simmons come in and provide the necessary depth to the real life personas they portray. The actors that stand out, though, are Themo Melikidze and Alex Woff playing the brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar respectively.
As far as Wahlberg goes, though the fictional character is receiving flak from certain sections, you can discount it because even though he is present at key moments of the investigation, he does not become a superhero enough to alter the actual events. The truth of the matter is the leading man never gets any opportunity to exercise his acting muscles despite all the screen time, barring a few unconvincing scenes where he gets to breakdown or shares a line or two about love and hate.
On the whole PATRIOTS DAY is efficient and functional enough. Berg and team never actually venture into controversial territories and instead play by the book, and thereby, deciding to stay safe. If you were hoping for a deep and profound analysis of the events, you need to look elsewhere. The makers also leave with a nice touch with a few documentary interviews of the real people, and it is inspiring to see how they have come to battle this tragedy and remain strong.
Rating 3 out of 5
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J.K Simmons, Alex Wolff, Themo Melikidze, Michelle Monaghan,
Directed by Peter Berg