- Movie Rating -

Patriot’s Day (2016)

| December 20, 2016

I’ll admit that I did not approach Peter Berg’s Patriot’s Day with a lot of enthusiasm, particularly given his lackluster product in the past.  His filmography constantly rides a B- whether he’s  patching together big-budget wannabes like Battleship and Hancock or delving into recent history with Lone Survivor and Deep Water Horizon.  It is the historical stuff that bothers me that most because he’s delving into subjects so recent that we can feel that the wounds are uncomfortably fresh.  And when he presents them as entertainment, it makes the results even more cringe-worthy.

Given that, I wasn’t looking forward to Patriot’s Day, his recounting of the events surrounding the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon.  Yet, to my surprise, even though it is an entertainment, it comes off as a respectful recreation of those events.  It’s not perfect but it work.

Frequent Berg collaborator Mark Wahlberg stars as Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders whose job on that fateful day is to help patrol the finish line – right where the bomb goes off.  The opening scenes are nothing to write home about until we get up to the last few minutes before the blast.  There is a lot of tension there, a lot of good editing that confuses the eye.  When the bomb goes off, I was surprised at Berg’s restraint at not turning the horror into exploitation.

What follows is kind of a fascinating procedural as the FBI and the Boston PD and one of the most refreshing things about Patriot’s Day is that it largely avoids the tired professional conflict over whose is really working the case – played by a good number of recognizeable faces: Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons, John Goodman, Michael Beach (Berg’s films are always loaded with male leads).  The conflicts are kept to a minimum; the Feds and the BPD work together to put the pieces together using the location, the evidence and the (real life) video footage of two men labeled “Black Hat” and “White Hat” and working to pin down their identities.

These men are, of course, Tamerlan Sarnaev (Themo Melikidze) and his brother Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff) who are surprisingly seen, not as stereotypes but as a couple of bumbling idiots whose plan for executing the plan seemed flawless but whose actual plan for getting away with it might have been at home in the movie Fargo.  We know that execution of their mission, but we are surprised at how incompetent they are as fugitives from the law.

What results in a moment by moment account of what happened, how it happened, and the manhunt to catch the fugitives responsible, but it is not done in an exploitative way, and I think that’s the one thing that I find refreshing about the whole thing.

Yet, the one thing that I find problematic is the ending.  Berg spends that last ten minutes, after the capture of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, putting together a talking-head documentary with the real people involved.  I kept thinking: do one or the other.  Either make a docudrama or make a documentary, he tries to go for both and it undermines what we’ve just seen recreated.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2016) View IMDB Filed in: Drama