The week following the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, Wired writer Graeme McMillan, questioning how popular culture will respond to such events, commented:
“It might have taken twelve years, but those movies serve as a reminder that once the initial rawness of tragedy fades, audiences will continue to desire stories in which people experience horrific events — but also survive them and find a way to thrive in their wake.”
It took less than 4 years for a film to be made based on the tragedy at the annual run and subsequent man-hunt, here fronted by Boston-native Mark Wahlberg (also serving as Producer), again partnering with Deepwater Horizon and Lone Survivor Director Peter Berg on a feature dramatization of real-life events.
Combining (limited) archive footage and coalescing much of the event and subsequent episodes around Wahlberg’s fictional police officer, Patriots Day, commencing with a straightforward recreation of the fatal afternoon, quickly moves into the immediate fall-out from the bombings and investigation, introducing agency clashes in the guise Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) and FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon).
Jumping between the cops and various victims, including portrayals of real-life couples and the families devastated by the bombings, Patriots Day soon begins to follow the lengthy man-hunt from the perspective of the then-suspects, transitioning the film’s latter half into more traditional cat-and-mouse, action-driven fare.
Strongest when told from the perspective of the agencies and officers scrambling to catch the bombers, or when Wahlberg, clearly serving as a voice for the city traumatized by the events (himself hailing from the Boston neighbourhood of the youngest among those killed) articulates the spirit of the city well-captured in the famous ceremony at Fenway Park, many of the most consequential stages of the investigation are nevertheless referred to in passing or left hanging amidst the action.
Dropping the behind-the-scenes drama for an intimate recreation of the two suspects’ fleeing and returning only an hour or more later to the compelling narratives of individual victims, the not insignificant decision to release the photos of the suspects, among other events subject to extensive public focus and debate, are often covered within minutes of the film’s drama and, regrettably, sometimes less.
Emotionally-resonant throughout regardless, those less-than familiar with the day’s events can expect a film as much about the bombings as Boston itself that will doubtless keep any audience member rapt.
Patriots Day is in cinemas on February 2