Patriots Day Review: Prescient But Inert Dramatisation
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, Khandi Alexander, Melissa Benoist
Running Time: 130 Minutes
Release Day: 23/02/17
As film dramatisations of real events, you can’t get much better than Paul Greengrass‘s devastating 2006 film United 93, which depicted the reconstructed events on board the United Airlines 93 and the people who gave their lives stopping it from reaching its September 11th destination.
Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg have spent a good deal of time capturing the same sort of everyman patriotism that you get in these sorts of films. LONE SURVIVOR, last year’s decent DEEPWATER HORIZON AND now PATRIOTS DAY, which have all been released to various degrees of success. Whilst it must be said that there’s a sort of worthiness in doing these sort of films, it could be misconstrued that the people involved have a fetish for real life tragedy.
Better documentaries have been made about these subjects and when you seem to add in fictional characters like Wahlberg’s Tommy Saunders it starts to seem a tad unnecessary.
However, PATRIOTS DAY is a fairly entertaining film and is meaningful in patches. The first act is all about the buildup which, like Deepwater Horizon before it, stretches out for too long without seeming anymore revolutionary of a story.
For me, the second act is where the film really becomes energised as the search begins and it’s about piecing together the clues and the footage to find the suspects. The scenes I found the most interesting were where both terrorists kidnapped Dun Meng, a Chinese exchange student, who later escapes.
Berg does a good job in making us feel for him and when he bolts from the car and alerts the police about the terrorists, it felt genuinely engaging. The third act is less effective after a blazing gunfight leaves one of the suspects dead and begins the suburban manhunt portion of the film.
It does what it does and solidly but there’s a worry that this film is coming out in a dark time for the the world, particularly in the USA. To make a film that is so much about flag waving needed to make sure it separated the terrorists from their muslim heritage.
Kevin Bacon‘s Richard DesLauriers says a couple of lines about how the event could spark a nation wide attack on the muslim community if they weren’t careful. As nice as it was to get moments like this, I don’t think the film effectively made a point of coming from that angle.
An FBI agent dons a hijab in one scene, undermining the message it was going for and the fact that the core cast of primarily male characters are white also doesn’t help to make America feel like a multi-cultural community.
Of course, they’re predominantly real people but the film doesn’t successfully balance its messages well and is still a few steps away from being revolutionary.
Elsewhere, the score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross isn’t as fantastic as their score for THE SOCIAL NETWORK and the cinematography is downgraded to give it a more realistic feel. The cast with John Goodman, JK Simmons and Melissa Benoist all perform well yet, generally, PATRIOTS DAY is on the cusp of being a good film but not quite making it.
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