Before I start this review, I'd just like to say I'm judging the film as a film. Not based on the actual events that happened or the politics that followed. It isn't my place to comment on anyone's real choices or actions during these events. However, it is my place as a film critic to review a film based on real events or not. With that being said, this is my review of Patriots Day, starring Mark Walhberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon and J.K. Simmons.
Tragedy Turned Tale Of Heroism
Wow, let me first start by saying I remember The Boston Bombing. I remember watching the reports come in about the terrorists, the gun fights and the all out man hunt throughout Boston. I also remember a city standing together in the face of adversity and rising to the challenge when it came to protecting their homes, and that's what Patriots Day does so well.
The story on display here is identical to the events of the Boston Bombings. There really is nothing to report about the story because we already all know what happens and how it ends. But, in Patriots Day we're treated to a ground level perspective about the first-responders and the following manhunt that took place. The only thing out of place is Mark Whalberg's character. Although he has depth, a compelling arc of heroism and self realization, he's only there to bring us to the events that took place. There were different police officers that were integral to the capture of the two terrorists and sometimes the plot and characters seem spread a bit to thin across the city. This can be said for a lot of the characters in the film. Some of them don't even meet, but Mark Wahlberg's character has interactions with all of them to make sure they all play a part in the overall scale of the events. This kind of tactic works with and against the film, showing scale but sometimes falling behind in a cohesive narrative. What Berg doesn't sacrifice though is his ability to build characters and tug at our heart strings when they're put into peril.
I feel the trickiest part of this film was the handling of it's villains. Last time Marky Mark and Peter Berg teamed up for a real life event, action epic; Deepwater Horizon; they had the added benefit of being able to easily demonize corporate greed. This time around, Berg has the challenge of fleshing out two very hated individuals in America. I won't even mention their names because of how disgusted I am of these two, but I have to say the film gives added perspective and shows the kind of mindset these two were in when they put their terrible plan into motion.
With the cast that was assembled for this film, it's no surprise the acting is top notch. Right off the bat, Marky Mark deserves another Oscar nomination. As per usual, he's charismatic, courageous and an all around American bad ass. However, Wahlberg is able to ground his performance to more then just an action hero and give us some real substance. There is a scene in this film that if Wahlberg does get a nomination, I can already see the presenter saying his name and then running that specific scene. The script really gives him a chance to show us his range and just how far he's come as an actor.
The ensemble cast is great as well. Kevin Bacon plays a stern and determined FBI agent. As head of this investigation it's his job to delegate tasks and command the overall manhunt that takes place. John Goodman really stands out as the chief of police as well. Goodman has some scenes in this film that sometimes end with him coming head to head with Bacon. The two of them are electric together and make for some really great moments.
J.K. Simmons has small part in the film. As a matter of fact, he doesn't share any scenes with any of the other characters. But, his part is intergral to the story and is exactly what the role calls for. He's not nearly as eccentric as some of his past roles like J. Jonah Jameson or Fletcher. But, the man certainly delivers here, even if it is a small role.
Other minor characters such as Walhberg's wife and the victims of the bombings are really only there to show scale. Like I mentioned before, the movie does a good job of showing scale at the price of character purpose. They're obviously not as fleshed out as our A-listers, but their performances are grounded and not even close to being over the top.
In short, the acting in this film is top notch across the board from every actor on screen, including are devious duo of terrorists. Both actors have a hard job of being menacing, yet compelling. Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze do a great job of bringing us in with charisma, but still keeping us at arms length thanks to their great portrayal of these two men.
The presentation of everything on display in this film is fantastic. We're treated to some real heart wrenching scenes. The film doesn't hold our hand with exposition and certainly doesn't water down the facts. There are some real hard to watch scenes during the events of the bombing. Berg does not hold back when it comes to gritty realism. His direction is focused on the destructive force behind the bombings. As a matter of fact, some of the footage on display is right from the cameras of the actual events. The stock footage brings together the Hollywood aspects of the film as well as the real world events.
I mentioned above that Berg shows the destructive nature of the bombings and boy does he. Peter Berg shows us limbs, blood and gore. His direction was able to give us a great display of the carnage while not exploiting the victims of the events or dramatizing it for the sake of thrills. With Berg's focus being on carnage as justification for the emotions we feel versus cheap thrills, we're given a great sense of what it was really like on that day. I'm not claiming that I now know what it was like to be there during these events, but I certainly now have a better understanding for the gravity of the situation. Berg's visceral, grounded direction shines through and gives us a great eye to the events that unfolded.
It's very evident from the direction, shots and overall tone that Berg had a very distinct vision for this film. You can tell just by the angles of the camera that he wanted to fit as much detail as possible into the shot. This eye for detail combined with his fleshed out story telling makes for a great film.
- Supporting Characters
Let me start off by saying that this isn't a general statement. Most of the supporting characters in this film are completely fleshed out, but there are some that feel just a little bit underwhelming.
The biggest offender of this is Sergeant Saunder's wife, Carol. Michelle Monaghan does turn in a great performance but she doesn't really have any real bearing on the plot. It seems that she was used as a just a device to get Wahlberg to cry into someone's arms and show us how these events affected his character. That isn't to say that it isn't necessary to flesh out how the events of this attack had on those at the marathon, I just wish they hadn't used her as the emotional trigger.
Our villains on the other hand are a bit of a mixed bag. Like I said before, this was a tricky thing to handle. You don't want to sympathize with two terrorists, but we also need to have perspective to be believable. I feel like the older brother was kind of left in the dark and was more of the films "bad guy" per say. However, the younger brother goes on more of a journey as far as trying to understand his brother's intentions and even has some touching, relatable scenes. The younger brother's struggle for power and to have a hand in the decision making combined with his brother's brain washing make for an interesting dynamic. In short, the older brother got the short end of the stick when it came to development, but they both turn in good charismatic performances.
- The Pacing
Patriots Day suffers from serious pacing issues. Berg's last film, Deepwater Horizon, benefited from having a smaller cast of characters and more build up towards its eventual hard hitting explosion. This time around, Berg has to set up a lot of characters and it honestly takes a toll on the natural progression of the plot. His haste to flesh out these characters makes it feel like we're watching a trailer for a separate film. Granted we do get better characters in the end because of this, it just felt a little rushed and I was trying to keep up with the film. But, just when I think we found a good pace after the events of the bombing, the film starts to drag. It seems as if Berg had a hard time finding the proper balance of character development and story progression. This only really holds the film back in some spots, but it was enough for me to make a note of it.
Overall, Patriots Day is a good film, but I wouldn't say it's a great film. It's somber tone and attention to detail really makes for an eye opening experience. Peter Berg's visceral, grounded direction combined with Mark Walhberg's charisma make for a viewing experience that only these two seem to know how to do. Granted, the film does fumble a bit at the start, but once we get our introductions out of the way, we're in for a real treat, even if that means we start to drag a little between the second and third act. I have to say that if Peter Berg and Mark Walhberg stick to this formula and continue to produce quality, historical, realistic films: I will buy a ticket.
What did you think of Patriots Day?
This has been my review of Patriots Day. What did you think of the film? Let me know down below and subscribe to my page for more reviews, lists and think pieces. I've been That Movie Guy, and I'll see you next time!