Thursday, February 2, 2017

REVIEW: "Patriot's Day" is a brutally brilliant adaptation of real-life events.

Patriot's Day Review
Movies that adapt real life tragedies can be incredibly tricky. Because you are walking a tight rope of honoring those who gave their lives or were affected by said tragedy and exploiting the tragedy for entertainment. It takes an acquisitively affective screenwriters, directors and actors to carefully etch in the important details, to make something that moves the audience, while honoring those involved in the tragedy. It seems easy, its been pretty hard for lots of filmmakers over the years. 

"Patriot's Day" is about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Which took place during on April 15th 2013, when two homemade bombs were detonated two hundred and ten yards apart from each other. Three people died, sixteen people lost limbs and several hundred more people were injured. The two terrorists tried to flee the city, they got wrapped up with the Boston Police, one of the bombers died. Another tried to get away, the city of Boston went on lockdown. Until finally, the final bomber was captured. The film is directed by Peter Berg, whose kind of like a Ridley Scott in many ways. He is capable of making movies that absolutely push your emotions out of yourself, and other times they land with a thud. I was a little cautious, but indeed curious to see what Mr. Berg planned on doing with the material.

First of all, he brings an incredible cast of actors together. Mark Wahlberg, once again presents a great lead as Tommy Saunders, a Boston Police Sargent who is present during the bombing and is instrumental in catching those responsible. Its another electrifying lead for Wahlberg, and he does good work. He is guided by an incredible supporting cast, that includes John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, Michelle Monaghan and J.K. Simmons. Everybody brings their A-games. Despite such a solid cast doing incredible work, the two performances who stand out the most are Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze who play the Tsarnaev brothers. I can only imagine that it would be hard playing two men responsible for such horrible things, as well as trying to humanize their side of the story. But both Wolff and Melikidze do an astounding job of re-creating these two tortured souls, giving them life with soft grace. No, we don't feel sorry for them and we don't feel for them, but we understand their ugly, brainwashed logic. That's a hard thing to accomplish and a tremendous achievement. (Fun Fact: Melissa Benoist from CW's "Supergirl" shows up as the wife of one of the Tsarnaev brothers. So removed from herself that I couldn't believe it was actually her. Great work on her part.)

I also have to say that this could be one of Berg's better directoral efforts. When the bombs go off, and everyone is reacting to them, confused by the smoke, the police rushing to help those in need. It almost feels like time slows down, like you are right there in the middle of the road, experiencing this incident with the actors. Its a magnificent scene, and one of the highlights of the film. I also have to give Berg credit during a particular shootout between the Boston PD and the terrorists. Too many times in movies like this, the shootouts or spurts of violence will feel "action-oriented" and exciting. I don't feel like "action" in a movie like this should be exciting. Again, its that tight rope between honor and exploitation that Berg carefully walks on. And he does it well. The shootout isn't something I would call exciting, and it shouldn't be. It feels very grounded and real, and I give Berg credit for never slumping too low with his material.

I do have a couple gripes, but they never once barred me from my enjoyment of this motion picture. I think Berg does a little too much weaving between news reel footage of events, to the moments with his actors. There are only a couple of points when it feels distracting, but its distracting nonetheless. This should be a movie, not a cable documentary. I think while overall, he handles the writing of the Tsarnaev brothers well. I think to a degree that it humanizes them a little too much. Yes, I am glad that they feel like human beings instead James Bond villains, but let's not try to erase what these men did by treating them like victims. There is a reason so many conservatives can't stand Hollywood. This is not the place for something like that. It's nothing insulting, but it nearly goes overboard.

The bottom line is this, an adaptation of a tragedy is tricky. I think overall Peter Berg assembles a great cast, willing to roll with the brutal material, its well-shot, well-edited and well-staged. Even a couple missteps can't stop your enjoyment of this movie. Mission accomplished, Mr. Berg.


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