Entertainment

‘Patriots Day’ Review (2017)

ScreenCritics Adam takes a look at 2017’s Patriots Day – the controversial depiction of the Boston Marathon terror attacks.

I know this is a silly little website for talking about the fun pointless things in life, but I’m going to talk about terrorism for a bit. One of the reasons that word can create a dark pit of despair in your stomach is that it makes you feel so helpless. The smartest amongst us cannot work out a sure fire way to make sure that nutters with an agenda don’t attack us, as shown with the recent tragedies in London and Dortmund. But this is where movies can step in as they can at least soothe us with an apparent answer, and that’s what Patriots Day is going to try and do.

The 2013 Boston Marathon is going well and is being enjoyed, even by police officer Tommy Saunders (Mark WahlbergBoogie Nights) who is having to work at the event even though he has badly hurt his knee. However lives are forever changed when two explosions go off, killing some and injuring even more.

So, Patriots Day is a controversial film as you might have guessed and one of the big problems is that the people of Boston hate it. Yes, even though this film is an ode to the people of this great US city, the film makes a big point of the Boston Strong movement that happened, it is hated by them. Why? Well they believe the movie exploits a recent tragedy, but most of all they hate Tommy, the main character. That’s because while everyone else in the movie is a real person, Tommy is made up. It’s quite similar to the structure of Titanic, with Jack and Rose being made up with the majority of the supporting cast being real. However that film had the benefit of time and that the tragedy had no real effect on what has happened. Here, Tommy is the hero. He saves lives, is key to the investigation and is a big part of the reason that the plot is resolved.

For the people of Boston, they feel these heroics being passed onto Wahlberg is very insulting because real people did these things. They deserve not the credit, not someone who came from the mind of director Peter Berg (Lone Survivor). I do get why Berg made this character because the film might not work without it. He obviously wanted someone who could be someone we’d be able to follow throughout the plot, someone we’d care about from the start of the Boston Marathon to when they are chasing the terrorists on the outskirts of the city. So it’s something that I am torn on because Tommy is needed for the structure of the movie, but is incredibly insulting to the real heroes of Boston that did such amazing work over those few days.

The thing I find most insulting is how the explosions are depicted. Patriots Day gets incredibly gory when showing the injuries that are shown after the explosions and again, I get what Berg is trying to do. He really wants to hammer home the horror of what has happened in Boston. But again, it is that real character factor that makes this uncomfortable viewing. Knowing we are seeing real people here and the idea that we are getting entertainment through seeing their legs and arms thrown across a Boston street is a rather gruesome thought. It’s this that really helps me get why Bostonians truly hate this movie.

What makes this incredibly frustrating for me is that if it wasn’t for the gore, this would be a truly stunning scene. It truly captures that moment of complete confusion and terror that hits when an event takes place with the frantic camera movements, this is when you use them, and complete lack of music. Yes, this movie gets that sometimes you need to drop the orchestral soundtrack and allow what we are seeing on screen just to settle in. It’s quite simply one of the best scenes of the year because of the brilliant way it is put together and the impact it has on you. It’s just that uncomfortable feeling you get with the bad idea that comes up in your mind that the injuries of real people are being exploited to make a quick buck at the box office.

Really then, I should completely hate Patriots Day. Yet I can’t because it did end up having a massive emotional impact on me, and I simply can’t write off any film that can do that. The idea of Boston Strong this film shows is one that really appeals to me, the fact that when a tragedy like this hits we can all band together against the evil. It’s such a simple idea, the one that love conquers all, and seems more like something that should be in a My Little Pony episode, yet there’s something about that appeals to me. And that idea gets hammered home at the end. As well as the usual text boxes which catch you up on the characters, there’s also interviews with the real people behind some of the characters in the movie. And it was like a million onions were dropped into the room. This was truly the highlight of the film.

Patroits Day is a film I will be thinking about a lot, mainly because I’m still divided as to what to think of it. There are parts of it I hate, the feeling that many innocent victims are getting exploited and the fact real life heroics are getting attributed to a fake character but there also parts of the movie I love. The overall pacing of certain scenes which make them stand out, the incredibly simple message which is something we should really remember with recent events and I didn’t get a chance to mention it but the performances are great too, even Wahlberg with his insulting character pulls out one of the best performances of his career. I truly get why the people of Boston have turned on Patriots Day, and all power to you, but I can’t dismiss a film that gets the tears going.

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