For better or worse, the duo of Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg have made an interesting trend. With Berg directing and Wahlberg as the titular star, the two have brought some of history’s more recent stories to life in film. Both Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon were graced with their fair share of good reviews, as well as some skeptics questioning the purpose of these films.
Their latest project Patriots Day had me nervous since its announcement. The film takes place during and after the events of the tragic Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. Patriots Day does not do much to differentiate itself from the other Berg and Wahlberg efforts, but it is their best yet.
Credit is given to the team behind the film for staying honest to the true story. Aside from the fact that Mark Wahlberg’s character is a composite of two cops, almost all the story beats are true to what actually happened. This attention to detail is equal parts impressive and honorable.
Performance-wise, everyone brings their best to this material. Mark Wahlberg gives one of his better performances in the film. This is certainly more of a ensemble film, but Wahlberg makes the most of his time with some emotionally resonant scenes. John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, and JK Simmons are also quite good in the film.
My big concern with this film is that it would go into exploitative areas, but it thankfully avoids entering that territory. The bombing scene itself is so well done, as it captures just how horrifying this crucial moment was. The film’s moments of action are never enjoyable in the traditional sense, but are tense and done with thoughtfulness. It’s a movie that respects the subject matter and people that are involved.
Berg has proven himself to be a solid technical director, and does a fairly good job here. The movie moves with force throughout its two hour running time, being tightly paced from start to finish. Berg does a solid job at building tension throughout, as well as trying to encompass the many different individual stories surrounding this big event.
While Berg is accomplished in some areas, there are a few qualities about his work that is still bothersome. Patriots Day, especially in its final third, settles far too much for big crowd-pleaser emotional moments. These moments, including a corny speech by Wahlberg’s character, never quite land as genuine moments, and just took me out of the movie. A director like Kathryn Bigelow whose handling of emotions are more subdued would have been preferred.
Even though this is a unique historical event, this film at times feels formulaic in comparison to the previous Berg/Wahlberg efforts. Certain plot points and details of the film are somewhat recycled from that film, as well as the general style and approach of the film.
Patriots Day is a thoughtfully-told and tense film that gives a respectful cinematic treatment to a truly traumatic event.