Patriots Day (2016)

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“I don’t think there’s any way they could ever win.”

There is no reasonable justification for Patriots Day to recreate the Boston Marathon Bombing a mere 3 years after the deadly terrorist attack. No possible explanation whatsoever. It’s not enough for this to just be an all-out bad film full of stiff performances and trite dialogue. Doubling down on its own mediocrity, Patriots Day joins in on one of contemporary cinema’s most troubling trends. The worst shift is the tendency to have reporters play themselves on film; it discredits them and helps foster the rampant agency of fake news spreading to the masses. The second culprit, and the one this movie falls for, is an unwillingness to let history actually become a part of history. Recreating such an inhumane event after such little time is like table salt caked on an unhealed wound. The sting is unbearable.

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Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) is a sergeant for the Boston PD. Recently reprimanded, a bit of a boozer, married to a good wife (Michelle Monaghan, who, as the lead’s spouse, only exists within the concept of her man. Her womanhood is constantly anchored to a lesser person.) It’s disconcerting to watch this movie because it so forcefully wants to plant us in the horrors of reality while leading the charge with a fictional overseer. You see, Saunders was not a hero involved in the actual heroism. He’s a false composite, and as shown here, a bit of an empty shell. Patriots Day propagates Wahlberg’s tendency to star in the roles of films he produces, even if he isn’t the right casting decision, or if the role should exist altogether. It’s starting to look like vanity.

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The previous collaborations from director Peter Berg and Wahlberg, first Lone Survivor followed by this year’s Deepwater Horizon, were grand successes. They both have layers, arcs, motives, and deep appreciations to them. Conversely, Patriots Day just unfolds like a never-ending and occasionally comical Jacob’s Ladder. And I point the finger of blame squarely at Berg, a talented big budget filmmaker who seems to have absolutely no control over this film’s tone. He first introduces us through the disaffected bombs planted by the Tsarnaev brothers, Themo Melikidze as Tamerlan and Alex Wolff and Dzhokhar. It’s a manipulative approach, tying us to the apparent humanism of people we barely ever know versus individuals deemed to be monsters before ever knowing them. The separation of false ideals, expectations, and individualized history all simmer without the time to properly boil over. This routine approach is rote.

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As a critic, and as someone who devotes an appreciation to the understanding of story, Patriots Day comes across as shortsighted and myopic. Imagine you lived a full, healthy, rich, adventurous life, then somebody decided to turn around a make a picture about you 36 months post-mortem without your consent. There’s absolutely no logic to that decision. Facts are bound to leak out, truths destined to be deemed false and vice versa. Three years between the then and the now is not a big enough gap to have a difference of opinion, discrepancy of facts, or a varying weight in the issues at hand. Instead, the film wastes its memorial material, littered by and rife with nationalistic garbage. Barely a note of this falsely patriotic anthem rings true. Patriots Day is definitive jingoism.

“Shot and run over. I repeat, shot and run over.”

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

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