Peter Berg, the director of films such as “Friday Night Lights,” “The Kingdom,” “Lone Survivor” and “Deepwater Horizon,” knows how to draw the truth out of a story and present it in an entertaining, authentic yet sometimes unpleasant way without pulling you too far in or out without questioning his skill and intentions. Often taking on the challenge of telling true life events, he handles these subjects with great care. He has proven over and over that he doesn’t exploit people and that he’s legitimate and capable and now with “Patriots Day”, he does so again.
Here, he brings us to April of 2013 and the events that occurred at the Boston Marathon. Sensitively, he introduces many of the characters slowly, leaving you to wonder their position in the chronicled narrative when see them pop up next. Some characters are going to participate in the marathon and others come in and out for awhile before you are shown their role. Two stand out right away; the bombers themselves.
Seeing them sends you back to the day of the attack and not in a positive way. Anger wells up from somewhere and you’re not exactly sure of what to do with it. Everyone is set up perfectly by Berg, these two especially. Tommy (Wahlberg) is a police officer working the Marathon, a duty that he’s given because he is working off a suspension and is now part of crowd control, something he deeply despises. After the explosions, he steps up to help Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Bacon) with the investigation. Knowing Boston better than an agent from out of town, he is desperately needed in finding the perpetrators. I’m sure anyone of the Boston police offers present could do this job but we have to make Wahlberg the hero somehow so this works. After a command center is set up, video surveillance finds the man who leaves one of the bombs to explode where he set it and they use footage from all the stores in the area to trace is steps. This is how they discover he didn’t act alone.
The bombings themselves are a ballet of both the cinematography of Tobias A. Schliessler, who often works with Berg, and real footage. When the runners are rounding the finish line and the explosions occur you practically jump from your seat. Your heart beats faster, your face turns red and your blood boils. If you’re on the slightly emotional side, you’ll weep. If not, you’ll at least have a massive lump in your throat to swallow down. It’s one thing to see the footage on the news but once he introduces you to people who are about to be the victims of this horrendous act, you find yourself pushing away from the screen and wishing you could warn them to get away from the area. In this respect he did a very good job of bringing the audience into the story.
When the Tsarnaev brothers are cornered in a town outside of Boston, it gives Berg a chance to play with the action part of the film and we take a break from the heavy drama its been. Berg is at his best when he’s re-enacting everything from the bombings to the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He also unveils that the Tsarnaev brothers had more than just the city of Boston in mind to terrorize. He does take certain liberties but you desperately need him to at this juncture. You want and need to cheer what happens to the people who are killing innocent men, women and children and would have continued had it not been for the quick responses of investigators and the Boston Police. It feels good to see them get their man who’s now on death row.
Overall, the film is incredibly dramatic and suspenseful, especially when Katherine Russell (Benoist), the wife of Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Melikidze), is interviewed. Berg plays to your emotions and your sense of pride when she’s interrogated by using dialogue given by a character you wish you could be.
This is a see at the theatre this weekend movie. I highly recommend it. After you do, stay seated. You get to meet a few people through pictures and recorded interviews talking about their experiences and your chest will swell again when the reason Boston Strong was so prevalent is revealed.