The Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 is the subject of the latest docudrama from Mark Wahlberg and actor-turned-director Peter Berg, who previously collaborated on similar movie adaptions of true life events in ‘Lone Survivor’ and ‘Deepwater Horizon.’ This terrorist incident isn’t so long ago that it’s no longer fresh in our memory and is perhaps more relevant today than ever before in light of the fact that Europe and the US had been hit by a rash of “lone wolf” style attacks of varying intensity last year that contributed to a climate of fear and anger (rightly or not) which may have helped elect a populist candidate into our highest political office.
With ‘Patriots Day,’ Peter Berg has surpassed Paul Greengrass as Hollywood's pre-eminent director of current events-based dramatic reenactments. Wahlberg, who has established a niche in Hollywood as our everyday blue-collar “working man,” donned the cap and uniform of Boston’s finest (a true “Blue Blood”) this time around as Sergeant Tommy Saunders, a wisecracking cop and family man assigned as part of the police detail overseeing the race. Through his character as well as other participants (some real-life and some fictional) on that fateful day and in the succeeding weeks, including sibling perps Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, this infamous terrorist incident is painstakingly recreated in procedural detail.
‘Patriots Day’ may not be for everyone and may hit “too close to home” for some, but it is engrossing, inspiring and, yes, even patriotic. As one who did not follow this incident very closely in the news at the time and knew little of its details, I found the film to be enlightening, at times fascinating and even inspirational in the reassuring sense that people unite together to help each other out in times of crisis. But all this is expected and the film (though technically flawless) has a decidedly by-the-book quality, from the initial chaos to the political turf battles to the subsequent manhunt, that’s all too familiar right down to its jingoistic heart.