Patriots Day Review – A Triumph! Powerful, Authentic, Challenging

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PATRIOTS Day, from CBS Films and Lionsgate, brings to the screen a recreation of the Patriots Day Boston Marathon bombing, the stunning finish line trauma, a four-day manhunt, and the key players that made Boston residents and Americans feel a national pride.

Written and directed by Peter Berg, PATRIOTS Day stars Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, Michele Monaghan, J.K. Simmons, Michael Beach, Alex Wolff, Jimmy Yang and Themo Melikidze along with a stellar cast of supporting actors.

PATRIOTS Day begins with Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders, played by Mark Wahlberg, arriving at a suspect’s door with two uniforms. After knocking Saunders decides to kick the door in damaging his already injured knee.

Boston Department Commissioner Ed Davis, played by John Goodman, who heard there was a homicide shows up as he and Saunders spare over his bust to flatfoot for the Patriots Day Marathon. Discipline for insubordination, showing up, directing traffic, and wearing the neon traffic cop vest ends the suspension that wasn’t.

Saunders is known to push the envelope and bark when he should roll with it. The Commissioner ends the conversation and four hours later Tommy Saunders arrives on Boylston Street waiting for the mad crush of runners expected to complete the running of the 117th Boston Marathon.

We meet our other strangers whose lives will all intersect on Boylston street on that day: Newlyweds Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, played by Rachel Brosnahan and Christopher O’Shea. A nurse, Jessica is an transplanted Bostonian who married Patrick, who is writing his dissertation and debating if it would be the Sox’s or the Marathon tomorrow. As there are only two things acceptable for Bostonians to do on Patriots Day, either enjoy the first pitch at the Boston Red Sox traditional season opener or head over to Boylston Street and cheer on the runners.

Steve Woolfenden, played by Dustin Tucker, shows up to cheer on his wife pushing a stroller with his toddler, Leo.

We also meet Sargent Jeff Pugliese, played by J.K. Simmons, as he is off to gather breakfast for his wife and head over to his station house unaware of what the next couple of days will bring to his small police force.

And over at MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we meet a young police officer Sean Collier, played by Jake Picking, working up the courage to ask a brilliant MIT graduate student, Li, played Lana Condor on a date.

It’s a beautiful morning in Boston, the weather is clear, a lovely spring day is expected. As the race is nearing the start, two others, who will also be on Boylston Street that afternoon, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, played by Alex Wolff, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev played by Themo Melikidze, are putting the final changes on two pressure cooker bombs.

At precisely 4:09:43 into the race, when the leaders had long finished and the ten-minute milers were making the final push, the first explosion, then seconds later a second explosion.

Suddenly all hell broke loose as spectators were hit with ball bearings, BB’s and other homemade shrapnel cutting through the crowd dismembering bystanders.

Within seconds our traffic cop, Tommy Saunders is the lead on triage and securing the scene as the dedicated runners are continuing to cross the finish line refusing to be deterred in their efforts to conquer the finish line after 26 grueling miles.  

Minutes later Massachusetts Governor Devel Patrick played by Michael Beach and Special Agent Richard Deslauriers, played by Kevin Bacon, are at the finish line with Commission Ed Davis all determining which agency will take the lead. Deslauriers finds a BB and makes the Terrorism call and the Patriots Day bombing became an act of homeland terrorism.

PATRIOTS Day invokes genuine emotions. More than the reactionary, the film gives way to feelings, possibly personal, and still I think feelings for many, of pride. Pride in America and that there are still committed law enforcement, dedicated public servants, not those determined to make a mockery of the office they hold, and that citizens honestly and genuinely care about humanity and keeping America free.

As PATRIOTS Day is a reenactment of a homeland terrorist attack, which resulted in catastrophic injury and death of three innocent Bostonians who began the day, with no other thoughts than being with family, the film tenderly handles the some of those details as requested by the families.

The hospital chaos is also delicately and poignantly captured. The film also adds a few lighthearted notes to break the tension and devastation. Pay close attention to the dorm scenes and the finale. And conversely the moments of great emotion, an honor guard standing watch over a fallen child.

The cast performed flawlessly as a singular ensemble. They handled the depth of the material, the sorrowful moments, and the triumphant moments seamlessly.

The investigation reenactment scenes, watching the Special Agent and his team build the replica of the city block in a warehouse, piecing together minute by minute the pathway of the two still unknown bombers and within days could positively identify them.  

Real footage of the Boston Lock-down, the Shelter in Place mandate, and the heavy artillery, the big guns rolling through the streets evoked a real sense of pride in my country. Finally someone took the lead and brought the strength to show the world who we are.

Mark Wahlberg hits the emotional levels as Sgt. Saunders finally makes it home from the war zone that has become the finish line. The mass casualty trauma, blood and severed limbs are vividly portrayed.

Peter Berg has taken this real-life tragedy and told the story weaving the sequence of events and more so trumping those deep moments of evil with good, with kindness, with care and with love.

Berg and Wahlberg seem to have found a niche with these films that depict the strength of humanity in the face of evil and hatred, of when the ordinary citizen becomes extraordinary as the circumstances call them to become greater than themselves.

The four days of Boston’s most challenging moment and most triumphant bring the audience along behind the scenes of the investigation, on the front lines as the bombers hijack an unknown MIT student Den Meng, played by Jimmy O. Yang, to a firefight that surprises everyone with its strength and finally the capture. The intensity of the four days, the emotions, the victims. PATRIOTS Day presents it all.

PATRIOTS Day opens in select cities December 21, 2016 and expands January 13, 2107. See it!

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