By Christian DiMartino
Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg must really love real-life tragedy.
Four years ago, Berg and Mark Wahlberg teamed up for the tragic war drama, Lone Survivor. Late last year, the two teamed up again for Deepwater Horizon, about the BP oil spill. Now they’ve teamed up once again for Patriot’s Day, which revolves around the bombing of the Boston Marathon back in 2013.
Now I said that the two must love real life tragedy. That may be the case, but in all three films, they’ve displayed respectful, somewhat moving acts of true heroism. That isn’t always something easy to pull off. But yet Berg has just the right amount of respect and appreciation for the story he’s telling, and the people involved, that it usually works swimmingly.
Of those three films, Patriot’s Day may be the best. What Berg does here is kind of tricky, considering that this act of terrorism was only three years ago. Is it too soon to make a movie about? Perhaps. But in Berg’s hands, Patriot’s Day is a film that is not only very well crafted, but also handled with care.
The film opens during the hours before the attack. Wahlberg plays Tommy Saunders, one of the cops present at the time of the bombing, along with his loving wife (Michelle Monaghan). Berg introduces quite a few characters here, and some of their purposes seem somewhat unclear. But yet that’s kind of the clever thing about how Berg has chosen to tell this story. While their purpose seems unclear at first, you do grow to realize just what role they served in the incident.
Then, one peaceful day, said bomb goes off, killing and injuring numerous innocent people. Since this is such a recent tragedy, some might find how these scene is portrayed unsettling. Berg crafts it well though, grounding it in realism, as he did with the giant inferno aboard the Deepwater Horizon.
Following the bombing, Saunders, the commissioner (John Goodman), and the CIA (led by Kevin Bacon) set out to find out just who did it. An even riskier plotline focuses on the actual terrorists, played by Alex Wolff and Themo Melikdze. How do you capture these characters without making them seem like pure evil? There is no way. Yet the way these characters are handled does show us just what kind of evil exists in the world. There is no real remorse. No regret. They knew what they were doing, they did it, and thought they were going to get away with it.
Some moments in Patriot’s Day feel like… well, a movie. But you know, this is a movie, and a very good one. It falls short of greatness in the way that, like Deepwater Horizon, there are just a few too many characters to invest yourself in. It’s not Berg’s fault necessarily. But rather, the fault of the tragedy itself, and Berg’s admirable decision to try and include everyone involved.
It also has the same structure as Deepwater Horizon, but yet it’s a better film. It’s a better film in the way that it handles its characters. Because while you’re not fully invested in them, it may have something to do with the fact that you don’t know how they tie into it in the first place. But once you do, it all adds up.
Berg’s film isn’t quite great, but it is very well crafted and even though we know the outcome, pretty fascinating nonetheless. The bombing may have been four years ago, but this story is one that still feels too real. Too current. There is evil in the world, yes. But yet there are also real heroes out there, and Berg has given both the treatment they truly deserved. And that, to me, is something to tip your hat to.