Director Peter Berg’s new film, Patriots Day, will mark the third time he’s made a based-on-a-tragedy film with Mark Wahlberg at the center.
Patriots Day is based on the tragic 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing, the work done on the ground, and the furious investigation that followed. Wahlberg plays Tommy Saunders, one of the Boston policemen at the finish line when the bombings took place. The movie sort of follows Saunders during the 4-day manhunt. It also follows the Watertown police, an MIT policeman, a young college student, the Tsarnaev brothers, and a few of the bombing victims that survived.
It’s easy to see Berg’s idea was to have all of these stories intersect and the impact the bombing had on every day people. For some reason, it just doesn’t’ work. Those stories play more like separate puzzle pieces more than pieces of a film that fit together.
The best part of the film is the FBI struggling to figure out what happened in the aftermath of the bombing. Seeing the different agencies have contrasting ideas about what to do with the photos was interesting. The story could’ve benefited if it talked more about the weight of labeling something a “terrorist attack” in a post a 9/11 world. Instead, the film nose dives back into the police riding around looking or bad guys.
The worst part was all the misplaced humor in the film. At the beginning, all the jokes made sense. Having characters drop funny one-liners In the middle of a shootout or a tense scene felt tasteless. The humor sandwiched between touching hospital scenes and an intense manhunt. The jokes feel even more out of place when the movie ends with actual footage of the real people who were injured during the bombing.
Wahlberg is fine as the lead character. At times he’s great, and at other times it feels like you’re just watching Mark Wahlberg in a police uniform.
Patriots Day could’ve been a very compelling movie. Instead of focusing on how the FBI works in these situations behind the scenes, it dramatized what we already knew. It would’ve been better off being about the city of Boston and how they came together. Instead, the movie played like an episode of Forensic Files on a bigger budget.