The heroes rose immediately from amid the victims that horrible sunny April morning at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and Patriots Day does one hell of a job reminding us all about how high they had to climb from that gut punch.
Director and co-writer Peter Berg brings us back to that tragic four-day period of terrorism with a compelling mixture of stark and horrible realism, deep and personable human drama and rude reawakening. Did Boston prove it was strong in 2013? Haven’t so many other cities here in our country and around the world have to go through something too similar thereafter?
The more-than-half-full crowd at Regal Cinemas’ big theater for a 6:40 p.m. Friday showing in Syracuse mega shopping, dining and entertainment complex Destiny USA looked thoroughly steeped in this history, a demographic that had watched the news networks tell it as in unfolded so agonizingly.
Berg chose to unwind the calendar back just a bit to start this 2-hour, 13-minute feature, placing the actors portraying the real victims and heroes smack dab into their situations the day before the Marathon.
Mark Wahlberg is the biggest Hollywood name, taking on the role of the Boston policeman with a bum knee who’s stationed at the finish line, feet from where the first bomb goes off. (He also gets a producing credit with Berg, with home he also worked on the also-taken-from-the-news project Deepwater Horizon.) It’s a natural fit for Wahlberg, this homage to his beloved hometown, and he plays Tommy Saunders with considerable grit, gumption and enough guile to help the swamped FBI honcho recreating the hectic scene (a taciturn Kevin Bacon) place “black hat and white hat” at the right camera locations to initially pin down their identities. J.K. Simmons stands out as the Watertown police sarge whose life is calm until it isn’t, and John Goodman provides gusto as the Boston commish who stands up for his city. Jake Picking is solid as a young officer smitten by an MIT robot-builder who won’t give up his weapon when he’s horribly shot by the two terrorists.
But the true stars, drawn by Berg, are the citizens who stand up to the horror. Rachel Brosnahan and Christopher O’Shea are precious as the young couple, he teaching her the ways of his city including Patriots Day morning drinks that fatefully place them at the finish line. The ambulances bring them to separate hospitals, where they both must have legs amputated because the terrorists put their pressure-cooker bombs at ground level. The camera work of that stretch of stretch is stark, horrible, even brutal. The terror when the terrorists hijack the car of the man wonderfully played by Jimmy O. Yang is palpable. When the couple is reunited and the hostage escaped, the theater feels joy and relief. There are even laughs when funny moments pop up. Just like real life.
The terrorists are shown in their slice of life, too. Berg doesn’t completely demonize the brothers, but there’s enough evil to go around in their actions. Most interesting is the interrogation of the elder brother’s American Muslim wife, played well as stubborn to the end by Melissa Benoist.
Berg introduces us to the real people before the credits, and that’s Patriots Day’s final charm.
Look at the real heroes. Look at what we can do. Listen to what they’re telling us about what they learned about themselves and what it means about us.
Do you think it’s too soon for a movie about the Boston Marathon Massacre? Do you like dramatizations of real-life news events or not, and why? Would you cheer at a movie like this, or not, and why?