A beautiful day in April 2013 turned brutal when the Tsarnaev brothers planted bombs at the finishing line of the Boston Marathon. Lives and limbs were lost in the bloody act of terror on Patriots Day. But the crux of director Peter Berg’s film is to recreate how America came together to find the culprits within 100 hours. The narrative therefore literally counts the hours before and after the attack.
Following a familiar template, several characters are introduced as they go about their lives with love and laughter with all of them converging in their own way at the Marathon. There’s also a parallel glimpse at how the two brothers plan their mission at home.
When Peter Berg spotlights the horror of terror, he does it swiftly and effectively. The merging of the maniac and the fanatic that sums up a jihadi is spot-on. Making it chillingly real is the way the brothers look American enough to mingle with the crowds. A warped spin on the 9/11 attacks and the fanaticism in the eyes of radicalized wife Katherine are also rooted in fact.
Without a doubt, it required the combined efforts of the FBI, the local police, and the public to identify the culprits and nail them. It’s interesting to watch the officials expertly use video footage and local knowledge to quickly pinpoint the terrorists. University friends covering up for the bomber or the ruthless brothers using a Chinese student with his new Mercedes-Benz keeps the drama alive.
But Berg gets carried away when it comes to the American spirit and that’s where the narrative becomes sluggish. There’s an overlong battle in Watertown before one brother dies and the city is shut down to find the other sibling. Mark Wahlberg who plays Boston cop Tommy Saunders, and is also one of the producers of the film, has at least two verbose scenes where he breaks down emotionally or has a monolog about good and evil.
After starting off as a gripping real-life terror plot, it ends up as a documentary. Paying homage to the victims, there’s footage of the Red Sox baseball team, all the cops, the mayor, the governor, the FBI and the survivors, as they endorse the resilience of America.
For a good film that should’ve been crisper in its telling, Patriots Day gets a 3* rating.