Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan
Run Time: 133 mins
‘Patriots Day’ is the third collaboration between director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg after ‘The Lone Survivor’ and ‘Deepwater Horizon’. What these three films have in common is that they are retellings of true events, ‘The Lone Survivor’ that of and ‘Deepwater Horizon’ a retelling of the the BP Oil Spill. ‘Patriots Day’ recounts the events of the Boston Marathon Bombings in 2013 and its immediate aftermath in tracking down the perpetrators through the eyes of a fictionalised policeman played by Mark Wahlberg. Until Peter Berg teamed up with Mark Wahlberg, I haven’t really been a fan of his filmography and have found him to be a slightly less offensive version of Michael Bay – ‘Battleship’ particularly annoyed me with its sheer stupidity and loudness. Mark Wahlberg can be a fine actor when he wants to be but he can also really play in some terrible films and I genuinely feel that this partnership is in the same level as that of Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese for example, as they have both created their best work with these films. ‘Patriots Day’ has assembled a fine cast comprising of Wahlberg but also J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon and John Goodman for example. It has similarly received strong critical and audience reception, a third success for both Berg and Wahlberg.
‘Patriots Day’ is a fantastic film and in some aspects is even Peter Berg’s most accomplished film. It is a fascinating retelling of these tragic events and has several simply staggering action sequences and is gripping right from the start. It features some fine performances by the majority of its cast and I’m really impressed with the amount of respect the entire cast and crew seem to have for this material. I do think Berg lays it on a little bit thick at the end of the film in an epilogue which is interesting in learning about the fate of these characters but I think Berg’s intentions are a little too patriotic. But other than this, for the most part Berg remains fairly agnostic and even delves into the back story of the criminals as well.
The performances in this film are generally very respectful although some characters do get a little short-changed in terms of development as Berg tries to tell this story from many different perspectives. The standouts of the film are Mark Wahlberg, J. K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon, Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze. Mark Wahlberg’s performance fictional policeman, Sergeant Tommy Saunders, is very good here and he is the character we see most of these events unfold with and his character is a good mediator as a story device. J. K. Simmons provides a lot of the comic relief but the role was practically written for him and he is brilliant in one action sequence late on into the film. Kevin Bacon manages to successfully ramps up the urgency of the situation and Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze as the criminals are particularly nasty. Unfortunately, although fairly high billed in the cast, John Goodman isn’t given a lot to do which is a shame because he is always brilliant in whatever he’s in and all Michelle Monaghan’s character needs to do is give marital support to Wahlberg. However, there are a lot of characters this film needs to juggle and the ones that Berg chooses to focus on are particularly appropriate.
The action sequences that Berg creates are simply mesmerising. Whilst we all know that the Boston Bombing sequence is coming, Berg holds off for a fair while before this happens in exchange of character development and this makes the film all the more gripping as we all know that this will happen and impact on these characters at some point or later. There are also some brilliant action sequences towards the last act of the film, a car shoot-out particularly worthy of mention which is absolutely brutal.
The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is as expected, great and particularly memorable in places and really ramps up the tension throughout the entire film. Just as impressive is the cinematography by Tobias Schliessler who manages to combine archival and dramatised footage near seamlessly throughout the entire film, almost giving the film a documentary-like quality and I thought it worked really well.
Overall, ‘Patriots Day’ is another gripping spin on true events and the partnership between Berg and Wahlberg evidently only grows stronger and stronger. Berg takes his time in establishing the context and characters before the action begins to sink in and when the film kicks into gear on the manhunt for the criminals, it is stunning. The performances are all very respectful and everyone is convincing and Berg manages to craft some mesmerising action sequences, a far cry from his older films which were firmly in Michael Bay territory. ‘Patriots Day’ is one of the very best films of the year so far and further cements how good Peter Berg can be when given the right material.