Review: Patriots Day

Patriots Day
8 10

PLOT: A docudrama based on the Boston Marathon Bombings, from the event itself to the the manhunt for the terrorists responsible.

REVIEW: This has been a terrific year for director Peter Berg. Just a few months ago, his DEEPWATER HORIZON blew audiences away at the Toronto International Film Festival, and now, his other fact-based drama, PATRIOTS DAY, is getting an Oscar-qualifying run before its wide release January 13th. While DEEPWATER HORIZON was a commercial disappointment (although it sure deserved to be a hit) PATRIOTS DAY, as its title suggests, is a boldly populist thriller that should connect with a huge audience the same way his earlier LONE SURVIVOR did.

While not quite as impressive as DEEPWATER HORIZON, which I found quite radical for a $100 million plus film in its stripped-down approach, PATRIOTS DAY is another dynamic real-life nail-biter. While not as tight or concise a film as its predecessor, Berg nonetheless manages to subvert audience expectations at least somewhat, with more emphasis on the manhunt and the terrorists than the event itself.

Despite being front-and-center in all the ads and on the poster, Mark Wahlberg is only part of the ensemble. While the first act examines the bombing and the immediate aftermath through his eyes, by the time the manhunt is underway, Wahlberg becomes peripheral. Instead, it weaves together the individual stories of the people bombers Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff in a standout performance) have violent encounters with while on the run. Each person they encounter is heroic in their own way, reflecting the often repeated “Boston Strong” motto which might have made for a more appropriate title than PATRIOTS DAY. These range from MIT cop Sean Collier (Jake Picking), to Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang) the defiant driver who played a big part in the brothers eventual capture, to Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons), an off-duty Watertown police Sergeant who ended up in the middle of a massive firefight (impressively staged by Berg as the movie’s true centerpiece).

Everyone is terrific, with Wahlberg again doing an excellent job conveying the ordinary decent-ness of a regular guy-cop who comes face-to-face with the unimaginable, and Wolff, a former tween star, stealing the show as the inexplicably radicalized Dzhokhar. This extends to the smaller roles, with a late-scene involving the cross-examination of Tamerlan’s radicalized wife (Melissa Benoist) by a Muslim cop (Khandi Alexander) being a standout and quite a chilling insight into the radicalized mind. Technically, the movie is top-notch, with sharp visuals and the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is as good as any they’ve composed for David Fincher. It helps emphasize the thriller aspects of the film, especially in the tense confrontation with Dun Meng.

All that said, there are a few things about PATRIOTS DAY that didn’t work so well. For one thing, Berg uses a lot of shaky cam, something that’s become increasingly tiresome. And some of the bickering between the salt-of-the-earth Boston cops and the tighter-wound FBI agents (with Kevin Bacon as the agent in-charge) could have been jettisoned to make the film just a little tighter. Overall though, this is another incredibly strong effort from Berg, who’s really found a niche in his real-life thrillers, with him quickly becoming a master of the form. Hopefully it’s a genre he returns to as very few are able to do it as well. For a guy a lot of us were writing off after BATTLESHIP, he’s well on his way to becoming one of the most consistent directors out there.

Source: JoBlo.com



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