Patriots Day is a poignant portrait of heroism in the face of horror. It sheds light on one of the darkest days in recent American history — the Boston Marathon bombing in April of 2013.
The film marks the third collaboration between director Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg, completing their unofficial trilogy regarding American heroes, which started with the 2013 Navy SEAL drama, Lone Survivor, and continued with last year’s Deepwater Horizon, which follows the brave men and women amid the disaster of the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
In Patriots Day, Wahlberg stars as Sergeant Tommy Saunders, an amalgam of several real-life cops who responded to the bombing. We see the event through his eyes, and he proceeds as the steady beating heart in the midst of the morbid madness. Wahlberg serves as an effective everyman, an ordinary guy rising to the occasion in an unimaginable, nightmarish situation.
The recreation of the bombing is horrifying without feeling exploitative. This isn’t a mere Hollywood spectacle; it’s an enlightening example of terror and tenderness. Wahlberg’s character delivers a heartfelt monologue about how good ultimately conquered evil and how love shined through the rubble as first responders gave people hope amid the harrowing situation.
The screenplay stumbles a bit near the end when it tries to inject bits of humor. The one-liners would probably work a bit better if the film were a fictional police procedural, but they feel forced and inappropriate here. However, this is a minor nit to pick in a film that otherwise provides a powerful, sobering and ultimately inspirational experience. Some are calling Patriots Day insensitive and unnecessary, but its heart is in the right place.