Mark Wahlberg in a scene from the movie Patriots Day.
Mark Wahlberg in a scene from the movie Patriots Day. Contributed

MOVIE REVIEW: Patriots Day is a good movie with a blind spot

EVERYTHING you wanted to know about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings -well, nearly everything - is explained in this nail-biting and poignant dramatisation starring that proud Bostonian, Mark Wahlberg.

The film adopts a docudrama style with a bit of (but not too much) shaky hand-held camera work as it introduces many characters whose lives will be affected on that day. We meet cops played by Wahlberg and J.K. Simmons, university students and a blissfully happy young couple. These early scenes layer on the dread as we start to wonder what fate has in store for each of them.

We also see the Tsarnaev Brothers (played by Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze), whose preparations include watching a video instructing them how to make a pressure cooker bomb.

Wahlberg's character is a bit of a cheat: he's a fictional composite of various police officers, which allows him to be present at three crucial moments during the bombing and subsequent manhunt.

Michelle Monaghan and Mark Wahlberg in a scene from the movie Patriots Day.
Michelle Monaghan and Mark Wahlberg in a scene from the movie Patriots Day. Contributed

The film otherwise goes to pains to specify the exact efforts of real-life people including Boston police commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), plus Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon), the FBI special agent who took charge of the investigation.

Arriving on the chaotic scene, DesLauriers holds off on declaring it the work of terrorists - knowing this will change the game. Then he spots ball bearings among the debris.

"It's terrorism," he says.

After the horror of the initial attack, the FBI machine swings into action, setting up a command centre in a massive warehouse, where the marathon's finish line is recreated and agents begin sifting through CCT footage to try to spot the killers.

This is the second movie in a row about a real-life American tragedy to star Wahlberg and be directed by Peter Berg, following last year's Deepwater Horizon. And while it's another solid effort, it too has a significant blind spot.

Deepwater Horizon didn't bother to highlight the enormous environmental damage caused by the oil rig's explosion. Similarly, Patriots Day doesn't make much effort to explain what inspired the Tsarnaevs to commit their barbaric act. Berg wants to move us with the ground-level, human story without paying much heed to the broader one.

The closest we get is a fascinating scene involving the interrogation of the defiant wife (Melissa Benoist) of one of the Tsarnaevs by a steely agent wearing a hijab (Khandi Alexander).

The movie is a fine tribute to the skill of the many people who caught the two terrorists with Chechen roots, and the courage of the victims. But it could have dug a little deeper.


Patriots Day

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons.

Director: Peter Berg

Rating: M

Verdict: 3.5/5 stars