*** stars (out of four)
Director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg have teamed up for their 2nd true story thriller in just four months. First, it was Deepwater Horizon and now it’s Patriots Day, about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Per usual with Berg, Patriots Day is a solid true-life thriller that occasionally goes too far into sentimentality.
The film’s de facto lead is Wahlberg, playing a Boston cop demoted to crowd control at the marathon (he’s a composite character). But there really isn’t a true main character. The film bounces around, following various people involved with the events (the FBI, bombing victims, police, the bombers, the young immigrant student they eventually carjack, and more). And the technique is largely effective, reminding viewers that these were ordinary people living regular lives until catastrophe struck. It also provides interesting glimpses into the mechanics of a terrorist manhunt.
The movie carries its 133-minute running time well, even if it stumbles at the end when Wahlberg gives a clumsy speech about the power of love. Berg then underlines it with interviews of the real participants where they make similar statements. The latter is more understandable - Berg wants to give the real people a voice in the film. But the talk about love is unnecessary - you see love in the actions of many of the characters throughout the film as they try to restore decency and sanity to a nightmarish situation.