Berg genuinely portrays Boston tragedy

Photo courtesy of CBS Films

“Patriots Day” is Peter Berg’s (“Hancock”) third collaboration with Mark Wahlberg (“Ted”) and his second film to revolve around a recent tragedy. The film follows the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent manhunt conducted in search of the perpetrators.

Wahlberg plays Tommy Saunders, a police sergeant who is assigned to the finish line at the Boston Marathon by Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman, “Argo”). Saunders’ wife, Carol (Michelle Monaghan, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”) is also present at the finish line when the explosions occur.

Both characters survive the blasts, and Saunders immediately springs into action. The details of the rescue efforts are shown mainly through the perspective of police personnel, which is a refreshing change from the usual gratuitous aerial shots of explosions and destruction that moviegoers have come to expect.

“Patriots Day” also follows the alternate storyline of the Tsarnaev brothers, Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff, “Coming Through The Rye”) and Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze, “Beautiful Something”). After executing the attack, they escape in hopes of conducting a similar strike in Times Square.

The two, especially Dzhokhar, seem to be well-integrated, run-of-the-mill citizens — a far cry from the traditional image of terrorists in the American psyche.

This characterization, as in most of the film, mirrors the real-life events of April 15, 2013, in gritty detail. In fact, this aspect of “Patriots Day” may be its greatest strength. The uncompromising, on-the-ground feel of the movie arises mainly from its faithfulness to reality.

Peter Berg has a knack for creating an immersive atmosphere that pushes the audience into the characters’ worlds. Berg achieves this feat by incorporating actual security footage into the film. While this method has been used on multiple occasions and in many films, it has never been executed quite as successfully as it is in “Patriots Day.”

The physical similarity between the cast members and the real life people made this integration even more believable. However, the film does not overreach in this pursuit, which makes this move respectful, rather than exploitative.

Wahlberg’s performance is impressive, not for its subtlety but for its forcefulness. While almost every one of his roles is a variation on the same hot-tempered action hero, it would be hard to find a movie where he plays this character better. His performance is probably Wahlberg’s Oscar bid for this year, and it would not be surprising if he manages to secure
a nomination.

Before “Patriots Day” was released, there were many concerns  of how the film would
address Muslim culture and its relation to the terrorists in the film.

The film’s unrelenting faithfulness to reality puts these fears to rest without any artifice. The movie does not associate with any political agenda — its sole purpose is to chronicle real-life events without scrutinizing any particular culture.

The film stirs empathy for the victims of the attack instead of bombarding the audience with statistics. This effect is achieved mainly by portraying the day-to-day life of specific people involved in one way or another in the Boston Marathon bombing. Once again, the technique is not an innovation in filmmaking, but it is executed extremely well through Berg’s
creative direction.

Viewers that go to this movie hoping for intense action sequences will get their money’s worth, but this film offers much more  than shoot-outs and car chases. The dramatic strength of the “Patriots Day” comes from the authenticity of its plot and acting.

While this film could have been a two hour long rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,”
“Patriots Day” avoids the pitfalls of glorified patriotism and creates a unique experience that will evoke loyalty and admiration in the hearts of any audience — American or otherwise.