Magazine article Screen International

'Patriots Day': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Patriots Day': Review

Article excerpt

On a technical level, Patriots Day is a crackling action-thriller commemorating the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent manhunt to find the perpetrators. But that technical facility has such a dismayingly anonymous precision to it that, rather than mourning those who were killed or maimed in this unconscionable act of terror, the film begins to feel like a soulless, mechanical exercise in pure kinetic showmanship.

For the third time in a row, director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg have crafted a solidly workmanlike tribute to real-life heroes in harrowing circumstances, but the familiarity of their approach is starting to grate. After premiering at AFI Fest, the film will hit select US cities on December 21 and the UK on February 24. Berg and Wahlberg's track record includes one hit, 2013's Lone Survivor ($155 million worldwide), and this fall's underperforming Deepwater Horizon (currently $104 million worldwide on a reported $110 million budget). American audiences' memories of the Boston bombing could drive interest, but there's a possibility that some may not want to revisit the attacks so soon.

Wahlberg plays Tommy, a temperamental cop trying to work his way back into his commissioner's (John Goodman) good graces. Volunteering to be on duty during the Boston Marathon, which is practically a citywide holiday, Tommy is startled when bombs explode near the finish line, resulting in panic and fatalities. Tommy, alongside a sergeant of an adjacent town (J.K. Simmons), a FBI agent (Kevin Bacon) and others, will try to track down the two brothers who masterminded the attack.

Berg, who co-wrote the screenplay, works on a broader canvas than usual, introducing us to several seemingly random characters who, we soon realise, will factor into the bombing, either because they're victims or because they encounter Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) during their escape attempt.

Patriots Day has a taut, focused approach, Berg economically dramatising the terror attack and then the methodical procedure by which law enforcement ascertains who was behind it. As with his previous two movies, his new film conveys a gripping fascination with how highly trained men execute their jobs.

Working again with cinematographer Tobias Schliessler and editors Colby Parker Jr. …

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