Patriots Day (15)

Dan Haygarth reviews whether this crime drama tastefully tackles the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Dan Haygarth
6th March 2017

Patriots Day depicts the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent manhunt, as local police and the FBI search for those responsible.

Mark Wahlberg stars as Tommy Saunders, a fictional Boston Police Sergeant, in his second collaboration with director Peter Berg in the last year. Their previous film, Deepwater Horizon, treated the true story of the 2010 BP disaster with sledgehammer subtlety, and not much has changed.

While the film is an occasionally proficient thriller, its use of the recent tragedy as the source for an entertaining police procedural is uncomfortable. After the blast, the film lingers on shots of injury in great detail, which feels exploitative, while an excellent shootout towards the conclusion is difficult to appreciate when the real-world implications are considered. Though it celebrates the resilience of  Bostonians admirably, the film harbours troubling levels of nationalism, and its lazy representation of Islam is  problematic in today’s political climate.

"[The film's] use of the recent tragedy as the source for an entertaining police procedural is uncomfortable"

However, the film does boast an impressive cast. Wahlberg successfully reprises his favoured everyman American role for the umpteenth time and is supported by a great number of character actors, including Kevin Bacon and John Goodman as an FBI Agent and Police Commissioner respectively. Unfortunately, none of the roles are properly developed, particularly a criminally underused Michelle Monaghan. Alex Wolff as bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the ever superb J.K. Simmons as Sergeant Pugliese fare somewhat better, but are hampered by a mediocre screenplay. The script is poor and subsequently the film’s tension fluctuates, leading the narrative to lose momentum frequently 

An unremarkable thriller, Patriots Day is hindered by its vast number of characters and awkward dialogue. Its release begs the question whether a recent tragedy should be used for entertainment purposes, and if it’s irresponsible to release a film which perpetuates these stereotypes of Islam.

Rating: 2/5

More like this: United 93 (2006)

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