Director: Peter Berg
Running Time: 130 minutes
Main Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, Alex Wolff, Themo Melikidze)
Even before I entered the cinema to sit down and watch Peter Berg’s newest tribute film Patriots Day, I already knew what I was getting myself into, a big serving of “AMERICANISM”.Patriots Day focuses on the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings following the stories of the aftermath from survivors, first responders and investigators as they begin to investigate the bombing and hunt down the suspects before they commit another deadly act. It combines the stories of fictional Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) with the real life accounts of Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) and Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman).
It does also feature the stories of a number of survivors from the bombing and the manhunt that followed, focusing on the story of Husband and Wife Patrick Downes (Christopher O’Shea) and Jessica Kensky (Rachael Brosnahan) and Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang), who escaped from the Tsarnaev Brothers (Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze)) after they had carjacked his car. It also focuses on one victim MIT Police Officer Sean Collier (Jake Picking), who was killed by Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The recreation of these stories was just a manipulative way for Berg to get the viewer hooked and to insight different emotions during the watch through, like a modern form of propaganda. It feels like the film has no consideration for what the victims went through and only inserts their stories to evoke extreme emotions. It never sat right for me. I believe it was way too soon for these sorts of stories to be told and to use it in such a manipulative way.
I have to admit that Berg has done a good job with the bombings and manhunt stages, as it is emotionally heavy and its hard not to feel traumatized when viewing the bombing scene, reliving a tragedy still fresh in the minds of the world. The manhunt is thrilling and shows how Berg has become more equipped with his directing to craft a tense final shootout between police and the Tsarnaev brothers. Berg is careful with how he structures the bombing scenes and it’s hard to watch. He also uses Boston homeboy Mark Wahlberg as his poster boy to shove American symbolism in your face. When this symbolism begins it starts to shadow these dramatic scenes as he focuses less on the victims and more on the extreme heroism of Saunders. The American narcissism really shines through and the feeling of the film changes from a tribute to the survivors and victims towards all about how much of a hero all Americans are. As the film progresses this notion of American patriotism and narcissism becomes tiring and makes the film hard to sit and watch, taking away from the way Berg has structured his film.
But a huge issue that dominated my mind following the bombing scene was the way in which the two perpetrators were portrayed and the meanings behind it. Its portrayal of Muslims is borderline inciting hate on them, painting them in such a light as they are the demon to American freedom and safety, a message we don’t wont to see in today’s fragile world, as we tackle terrorism from extremist groups such as Islamic state, which is an extreme version of Islam. The film portrays the Tsarnaev brothers as extremist (which they were), who believed in the extreme versions of Islam, similar to that of ISIS. But in a fragile world there was no need to paint them as religiously crazed men who wanted death and/or destruction to all Americans no matter the cost to themselves or their families. Don’t get me wrong what the brothers did was downright wrong but for it to be portrayed in such a way that may be interpreted, as “All Muslims are extremist” is not a very good look and not something to be planted in a film like propaganda. Nor is having a scene where Saunders family ask if it was al‑Qa’ida who did the bombing. It again takes away from how Berg has structured the film whilst adding to the Americanism within the film.
Patriots Day is wonderfully crafted, but provides a questionable tribute to the victims but it goes over the top with the Americanism, patriotism and Muslim shaming making it a film that suits the Trump Era but it doesn’t really serve as a film to recommend people to watch.
The Front Row Opinion