Director Peter Berg and Boston native, Mark Wahlberg, have teamed up once again to bring another true-life drama to the big screen. Following "Lone Survivor" in 2013 and "Deepwater Horizon" earlier this fall,
"Patriots Day" is Berg's and fellow screenwriters, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer, account of the events which took place in Boston on Patriot's Day, Monday, April 15, 2013.
Tommy Saunders (Wahlberg) is a Boston homicide detective trying to get back in the good graces of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman). His final task before he's reinstated to his old job is working the finish line at the Boston Marathon on Patriot's Day. Unhappy about this assignment, Tommy nonetheless does as he's told. When his injured knee swells up, he calls his wife Carol (Michelle Monaghan) and asks her to bring his other brace to him on Boylston Street. Neither could predict the fateful outcome of this horrific day for Boston.
Berg and his crew do a remarkable job of re-creating the mayhem which erupted when the bombs, set by 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) and his19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff), explode. And Berg incorporates real survivors Patrick Downes, played by Christopher O'Shea, and his wife Jessica Kensky, played by Rachel Brosnahan, both of whom lost legs, into the fabric of this tragic account.
Many of the survivors, first responders, police and hospital staff shared their stories with Berg and Matt Cook, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, who all worked to piece the terror attack and its aftermath together. They do an exemplary job of showcasing Boston and its citizens at their finest --- working as a unit with the police and FBI, led by Special Agent, Boston Division, Richard DesLauriers, portrayed by Kevin Bacon.
All of this is well --- and good, I suppose. Personally, I feel that this film comes too soon after this indescribable ordeal. And though Wahlberg's character is an amalgamation of several real people who were involved in many aspects of the bombing and subsequent manhunt, having Tommy in numerous scenes --- always right around the corner --- bothered me immensely. Wahlberg playing the everyman seems forced and makes the film less impactful than I would have preferred.
Melikidze and Wolff, particularly, are outstanding. One cannot imagine the difficulty bringing to life such hateful young men, whose understanding of Islam and its tenets is way off base. Both actors convey the cold, heartless demeanor necessary to pull off such a heinous act. It's a difficult credit to write, but they are totally convincing --- especially when things begin to unravel.
The other exceptional performance belongs to Jimmy O. Yang who plays Dun "Danny" Meng, the 26-year-old Chinese hostage whose black Mercedes-Benz SUV was taken, along with him, by the two brothers. His daring escape and ensuing phone call to the police are paramount in the chase of the Tsarnaevs. Yang is extremely effective in a pivotal role.
Though Berg and his cast and crew are thought to do their best, at times in "Patriots Day" I felt manipulated. This bombing was an immensely cruel act of violence against innocent people enjoying a beautiful day out in Boston. I don't know how they will view Berg's film. My only hope is that it will not inflict further damage.
Opinion: Wait for DVD
"Patriots Day" is a taut, suspenseful new movie detailing the explosions at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, and their aftermath. It is mostly a dramatic re-creation of the events, and a bit of a documentary at the end when we are introduced to some of the survivors of the atrocity. We also watch as Red Sox favorite David "Big Papi" Ortiz, addresses the Fenway Park crowd five days later.
Like other films of its ilk, "Patriots Day" holds us in its grip despite the fact we all know the outcome. As the movie familiarizes us with some of the race spectators, plus key Boston police officials, there is an undeniable sense of dread. We know there will be a blast, but we don't know exactly when it will occur.
When it does, it's a shock, and from that moment, with the frantic chaos that ensues, director Peter Berg's film is mesmerizing. Three people died, and others were severely injured, including limb amputations, but the fact that a social institution like the Boston Marathon could be and was targeted, is a stomach-churning notion.
Mark Wahlberg stars as Boston homicide detective Tommy Saunders. The actor is a native Bostonian who initially rejected the role, but accepted after reading the script. A two-time Oscar nominee, he is effective, especially after returning home to wife Carol (Michelle Monaghan) and tearfully reflects on the images he can't forget.
The misguided philosophies of two brothers of Russian descent --- the oldest said the Twin Tower attacks of 9/11 were committed not by Muslims, but by the U. S. government --- resulted in the now infamous bombings. One remarkable aspect of the movie is the casting of the two actors portraying the Tsarnaev brothers, particularly Alex Wolff, who plays Dzhokhar, the younger of the two. It's almost a surreal likeness to the real individual, and lends a true air of authenticity to the story. Both Wolff and Themo Melikidze as older brother Tamerlan are chilling as they lounge in their apartment watching news reports of their nefarious deed.
Other standouts include Kevin Bacon as FBI agent Richard DesLauriers, and Jimmy O. Yang as Dun Meng, the 26-year-old Asian man who was abducted, along with his Mercedes SUV, while the two terrorists were on the run.
"Patriots Day" is superbly edited, capturing the frenetic activities of the investigation and the race to identify the perpetrators before a similar attack could occur, rumored to be in New York City. The film will certainly trigger the raw emotions of those of us who were stunned by the events on that fateful day in April 2013.
Opinion: See It Now!