Great score, great cast, a gripping set piece and a marvellous edgy quasi doco feel for the lead up to the incident, PATRIOTS DAY is the apotheosis of the teaming of director Peter Berg and his star of choice, Mark Wahlberg.
A searing re-enactment of the Boston Marathon bombings in Boston in 2013, the film was originally titled Boston Strong, which seems eminently more suitable and more palatable to non jingoistic audiences.
Title aside, though, PATRIOTS DAY is a prime procedural thriller concerning the lead up, the event and the aftermath, and is absolutely gripping in its three act play out.
On Monday, April 15, 2013, two domestic grown terrorists conceived an attack on one of the city’s finest traditions – killing three and injuring 264.
In the four days after the bombing, a thousand-plus member task force of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies convened to reconstruct the bombing scene, to comb through evidence and respond to thousands of leads to identify the bombers.
On April 18, following a tip from an escaped hostage, and with the city basically shut down law enforcement engaged the suspects in a prolonged and fierce battle in Watertown, where one of them, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was fatally wounded. The following night, Tsarnaev’s accomplice, his younger brother Dzhokhar, was captured hiding under a boat tarp in a Watertown resident’s backyard.
Belying the tragedy to come, PATRIOTS DAY begins with a comical tone with the central character, Sgt. Tommy Saunders of the Boston Police Department, played by Mark Wahlberg, making a plain clothes bunko squad bust in the middle of the night, aggravating a knee injury and incurring a very funny lost in translation exchange with a perpetrator.
On the morning of the marathon, he is back in uniform, part of a disciplinary action against him, not happy at all being dressed in the high res uniform he thinks makes him look like a clown rather than a cop. Stationed at ground zero, the finishing line, he becomes one of the first responders, then later, one of the many investigators concentrated to apprehend the bombers.
A sprightly script that condenses the gripping drama into a tense narrative framework populated by a rich array of characters, PATRIOTS DAY boasts terrific performances from Kevin Bacon as the FBI agent brought into the field to manage the Federal response, John Goodman as the Boston police chief, and J K Simmons as the mustachioed muffin loving cheroot sucking police chief of outlying Watertown where the outlaws hunker down for a fearsome fire-fight.
Speaking of fearsome, Khandi Alexander’s turn as spook interrogator is stone dead chilling as is Melissa Benoist, the interrogated wife of Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Top lensing by Tobias Schliessler, exquisite editing by Colby Parker Jnr and Gabriel Fleming and a kick arse score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross make this a cut above based on true events suspenser.