Friday, January 13, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Patriots Day (2016)

PATRIOTS DAY (2016), which had limited Oscar-qualifying screenings in a few cities last month, opens wide today.

PATRIOTS DAY is the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the first responders who raced toward danger to help others, then worked tirelessly to find the perpetrators and prevent more terrorism. I found it absorbing and inspiring.

The film is told "tick-tock" docudrama style, with the times and names of the many people involved presented on the screen as the action unfolds.

There are good, low-key performances by familiar faces including John Goodman as Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, J.K. Simmons as Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese of the Watertown PD, and Kevin Bacon as FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers.

The film's main concession to dramatic license is Boston-born Mark Wahlberg as Boston PD Sgt. Tommy Saunders, a "composite character" who is at the scene of all that week's major events, from the bombing at the marathon finish line to helping agents ID the suspects to the Watertown shootout and then the capture of the second suspect inside a boat parked in a Watertown backyard.

This mostly works, as we vicariously experience events through Sgt. Saunders' eyes, though there is one odd scene where, because of his knowledge of the street, he tells the FBI agents which businesses have video cameras. It's dramatic, but as he struggled to remember the business names, I wondered why they didn't pull up Google Street View to help...they were in a warehouse command center filled with computers and this was 2013, after all.

With police officers' lives currently in greater danger than ever before, this film is a timely reminder of the bravery of so many first responders. The scene with officers running toward the bombing sites, heedless of the fact that more bombs might be about to go off, is just one of the film's reminders that most police officers want to "serve and protect" their fellow citizens.

The quick detective work by the FBI and police is interesting to watch, particularly the reconstruction of the crime scene inside a warehouse. The interrogation of the wife (Melissa Benoist) of one of the killers by an FBI agent (Khandi Alexander) is also riveting.

The film also has a great deal of suspense, including the bravery of Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang), who is carjacked by the Tsarnaev brothers and must decided whether to try to make a break for it. The movie sequence looks amazingly like the real thing.

PATRIOTS DAY was cowritten and directed by Peter Berg, who also teamed with Wahlberg on DEEPWATER HORIZON (2016). It was filmed by Tobias A. Schliessler. The running time is 133 minutes.

Parental Advisory: PATRIOTS DAY is rated R. There is some graphic gore, but it's clearly telegraphed when it's coming and I was able to avoid looking at it. There is also plentiful use of the "F" word. That said, this is an inspiring story of the first responders who ran toward danger to help others and who worked hard to protect the public from further terrorism. To a lesser extent it also depicts the resilience of some of those who were injured by the bombings; a moving postscript with some real-life participants is included. I would recommend this film for older children who are able to handle the subject matter.

The film has an official website. A trailer may be seen at the website or on YouTube.

For more on this film, please visit reviews by Leonard Maltin ("compelling...packs an emotional wallop") and Kenneth Turan ("effective, efficient and quite dramatic").

Previous reviews of Mark Wahlberg films: THE ITALIAN JOB (2003), CONTRABAND (2012), and DEEPWATER HORIZON (2016).


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