Patriots Day

It is hard to imagine that it was only four years ago that the horrific attack occurred on the by-standers at the Boston Marathon by the Tsarnaev brothers. Director Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon) provides a flash point perspective in his latest docu-drama outing, Patriots Day. His favoured lead actor, Mark Wahlberg (Deepwater Horizon), leads the star-studded cast as Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders who finds himself at the heart of the events and the eventual capture of the radicals. Based on the book, Boston Strong, the seasoned director delivers an immersive experience of the city and national law enforcement as they investigate the events that tragically impacted this celebrated city and it’s residents.

The first question may be if it is too soon to dramatise the events surrounding the Boston bombings. Being in 2013, the harsh realities and vulnerabilities of our world become very real in the portrayal of the incidents. With the use of dramatic and actual news footage, Berg manages to provide the feeling of being at the epicentre of the terrorist act. It becomes fascinating cinema with the introduction of each character at the beginning and slowing being made aware of what brings them to the eventual intersection with the Tsarnaev brothers. What could have been a narrative mess, becomes a fascinating weaving together of the Bostonian’s stories, their personal lives and the ripple effect that this catastrophe had on them and the world.

Complementing Berg’s direction was the fine performances from all involved in the production. Wahlberg dug deep into his Boston roots and manages to portray one of the most personal roles of his career. Conveying the anger and desperation of the law enforcement teams, Wahlberg seems to represent the heart of his city and the desperate desire to capture the men who attacked his beloved city. The patriotism and passion for the city and country comes through the support of Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons, John Goodman and Michelle Monaghan, but the pain and disbelief is truly captured in the individuals who portray the victims. From the couple who both lost their limbs in the blast to the father who is separated from his young son, Berg is as able to deliver the message that there are no victimless or faceless crimes.

The reality of these events is displayed with raw beauty, showing that situations like this contain the best and worst of the human condition. Mistakes by the city officials and federal officers are shown unapologetically, because to respond quickly in the rush to find these perpetrators of evil, the potential for human error is inevitable. Radio frequencies not working, police shot by friendly fire and the inevitable alcohol consumption by law enforcement are balanced with brilliant detective work, fascinating advancements in technology and human ingenuity make for an excellent cinematic experience.

A feeling of patriotism is inevitable for anyone with any connection to the United States. Even through the mistake riddled events, the sheer drive to protect and serve the wider community is on full display in Patriots Day. Along with the pride in the US is the depiction of a multicultural country and the value of this characteristic. This docu-drama is worth venturing out to see this weekend for the sake of entertainment, but more to appreciate the privileges that are worth fighting for as a nation.

REEL DIALOGUEWhat are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 

Where are the roots of patriotism?  Patriots Day will cause the least patriotic person too consider their love for the country in which they live. Yet, is patriotism a biblical concept? Yes and no. A Christian should understand that their citizenship is not found in an earthly kingdom, but in the Kingdom of God. Not to diminish or undermine a person’s pride in their country, but to realise what is the first priority of a follower of God. Loyalty to God and then to the earthly country they read in during this life.

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.