Friday, 10 February 2017

Patriots Day

Patriots Day is the third movie in an unofficial trilogy directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg (the other two being Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon). I say it's unofficial because no one has come out and said as much, but when you watch all three back to back, you can definitely see a unified theme. And that's the idea that Americans can band together to overcome adversity. The first one was a single man, the second a small group of people and this one a whole city.

The movie starts the night before the 2013 Boston Marathon, where BPD Officer Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) is arresting a suspect of a murder. He is on probation for his unconventional techniques and is told by Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) that the probation will finish if he patrols the marathon in uniform. As the day of the marathon begins, various people go about preparing for their day, whether it's going to the marathon or baseball, or just another day of school or work. Also preparing for something, although much more sinister, are Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff), two Chechen-American brothers intent on committing a terrorist act in the name of radical Islam. The majority of the movie takes place after the bombings during the subsequent manhunt for the brothers.

This movie does a good job at not stirring up anti-Islamic sentiment in it's characters. There is even a hesitation on the part of the lead FBI investigation to even call it terrorism. There isn't even any dialogue condemning Islam apart from a character asking "Is it Al-Qaeda?" only to be shut down. The only real bias this movie has is a pro-Boston leaning, in which it showcases the strength and unity the people of the city had during the tough few days. The Bostonian elements are also are weakness for the film as there are a lot of over the top stereotypes. There are accents galore, especially from the proud hometowner Mark Wahlberg, as well as a scene where a native husband teaches his wife to say "let's watch the Red Sawx and Fenway Pahk". While it would be fun to satirise in any other movie, it doesn't really have a place here. I think the only two other more Bostonian films you're going to find are Good Will Hunting and The Departed.

Peter Berg does do a great job in building the tension leading up to the bombings. He builds the scene by cutting from the victims (who we've met) to the brothers placing the bombs. This heightens the fear that we have for what is about to happen. Various use of actual news and CCTV footage from the event is edited into the actual film quite seamlessly and this is aided by the fact that Alex Wolff looks shockingly like the real Tsarnaev. The shootout that happens towards the end with one of the brothers is handled well, although it is a little over the top. This sequence has the best (and pretty much only) part of J.K. Simmons appearance in the film. In it he's jumping over back fences spouting one liners, it's a fun five seconds.

That's also one of the more frustrating parts of the movie, the fact that there are way too many characters. We spend the first ten minutes getting to know characters who disappear halfway through, or don't have any importance to the plot until the latter part of the film. Take for instance, Dun Meng (played by Jimmy O. Yang). He is kidnapped by the Tsarnaev brothers three days after the bombing, but we see him at the start of the film. While I understand that this was done to show the widespread impact the whole event had on everyone involved, too much time is used to build a life for these characters. There are a lot of characters in the film who suffer from this because they are all based on real people and I guess they didn't want to do injustice to any of the people. Nearly all of them are real anyway, all except Mark Wahlberg's character. I think they were trying to make him the main character, but failed as they spread themselves way too thin.

Patriots Day has the best intentions. But I think those intentions have made it difficult to cover such a harrowing event. There seems to be a feeling that every aspect of those couple of days has to be covered. Instead of focusing on just the people of Boston or the investigation or the bombers themselves, they try and cover all of it. When you do that there has to be a sacrifice of details and I feel as though that is what happened.

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