The new film Patriots’ Day gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the events surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. The prestigious race, which dates back to 1897, was the target of two extremists who set off homemade pressure cooker explosives designed to inflict maximum terror and bloodshed on runners and spectators alike. The explosions not only claimed lives and limbs but rocked America to the core. Patriots’ Day is based on the book “Boston Strong” by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge. Directed by Peter Berg, the cinematic drama stars Mark Whalberg, Oscar winner J.K. Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, and Michelle Monaghan.
Due to the fact that the bombings took place only a few years ago, many of the details regarding what went on that day will still be fresh in the minds of viewers. No doubt it was a challenge for the filmmakers to put a fresh spin on a story which received such extensive media coverage. Patriots’ Day strives to put a human face on the tragedy not only by telling the personal stories of an array of victims and law enforcement officers, but also by providing a glimpse into the lives of the terrorists behind the attack. Patriots’ Day allows viewers to witness the tragedy through the eyes of those who lived through it. In this way, filmgoers gain some understanding of the human beings behind the headlines.
The film’s narrative begins the day before the marathon as various individuals get ready for one of Boston’s premiere sporting events. Viewers are introduced to various characters including Tommy Saunders, a cop stationed at the finish line of the race, Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, a young couple who inadvertently end up in the middle of the deadly chaos, Dun Meng, an Asian student, Officer Sean Collier, a love-struck security guard, and the terrorists themselves: brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Hours into the world famous marathon, what was an ordinary day morphs into unthinkable tragedy as the two bombs are detonated. When the dust settles, three people are dead and over 250 are injured. The carnage is difficult to watch as victims are shown suffering from bloody shrapnel wounds and missing limbs.
Director Berg makes use of a variety of cinematic tools in order to communicate the fear, confusion, and panic that accompanied the attack. In the minutes after the deadly explosions, people are depicted running in all directions both in fear for their lives and in order to come to the aid of the victims. The chaos of the bombings is further illustrated by telling details such as the bizarre way in which marathon runners, either unaware or in a state of shock, continued to run through the crime scene just minutes after the devastating attack.
Patriots’ Day succeeds at shedding light on the unsung heroes and villains behind the attack. A good example of this is the story of Dun Meng’s terrifying car jacking at the hands of the bombers. The young student’s reaction to the tension filled ordeal may have thwarted further attacks and his bravery is an important part of the eventual capture of the bombers. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Patriots’ Day also highlights the role several apathetic MIT students played by not coming forward with important evidence regarding Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s role in the crime.
As is the case with most true life dramas, Patriots’ Day ran the risk of being didactic or overly sentimental. Instead, however, the events surrounding the bombing, criminal investigation, and subsequent manhunt are portrayed with tension and suspense. The shoot out at the end of the film is especially well executed.
Like the Oscar winning film Spotlight, the city of Boston plays a prominent role in Patriots’ Day and is depicted as a distinct character unto itself. The city’s citizens are portrayed as proud Americans who, despite being victims of a senseless attack, don’t lay down and die but rather fight back, persevere, and eventually become stronger.
Patriot’s Day is now playing in theatres.