Patriots Day (2016)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Patriots Day</strong> (2016)

(Netflix Streaming, August 2018) It’s too easy to point out that after Sole Survivor and Deepwater Horizon, this is Peter Berg’s third Mark Wahlberg-starring movie in a row tackling recent events in American history. It’s true, and kind of amusing, and so what? It does help that for all of its right-leaning American-uber-alles posturing and warm-headed rewriting of history toward a common safe consensus, Patriots Day is really well made and has its share of strong moments. It is about, obviously, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, concatenating events of a particularly tense week into a coherent storyline spearheaded by Wahlberg’s composite character. (It’s a bit much to ask for him to be there at every significant event in the chronology, but once you accept that conceit the film becomes easier to enjoy.) As you may expect, there’s a strong “you messed with the wrong city” attitude in the final results, which can be inspiring considering that it doesn’t mutate into jingoism or xenophobia. The film is, by most accounts, remarkably accurate once you forgive the lead composite characters, which makes some late sequences appear even more amazing, such as the western-style shootout set in suburban Watertown. J. K. Simmons doesn’t have a lot of scenes, but he makes every single one of them count. The same goes for Khandi Alexander, a favourite of mine who gets a terrific one-scene presence as a canny interrogator. Downplaying Wahlberg’s there-at-every-moment role, perhaps the most stirring element of Patriots Day is seeing a city, a system, an attitude rally behind a common violent intrusion and dealing with it adequately. (And I say this with incredible fondness for Boston, the American city I’ve visited more often than all others.) The crisis response is reasonable, effective and free of petty rivalries. But beyond re-creating the event more faithfully than most Hollywood movies, Patriots Day also benefits from solid filmmaking—while it’s by no means an action movie, it has a few suspenseful sequences and manages to re-create an intensely surreal period (such as seeing all of Boston empty for a few days) with some skill. Patriots Day can’t escape justified accusations of taking place too soon after the events, but I suspect that its appreciation will grow over time as one of the few early takes that wouldn’t necessarily have been better had it been completed later.

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