Patriots Day had a tricky task ahead of it. It was only a few years ago that the horrible Boston Marathon bombing happened, and the events are still vivid in people’s minds.
Now, three years after the event, this movie tries its best to formulate a fitting tribute. It’s a tragic story, and it has a big heart at its core. To its credit, Patriots Day did a good job of capturing the spirit of perseverance of the city’s citizens. Unfortunately, as a film, Patriots Day is far too messy and unfocused to stand alone as a movie.
The movie’s primary goal, as far as portraying the horrific event, feels unfocused throughout. For the most part, Patriots Day is a standard action flick, based off true events. However, Patriots Day goes out of its way to wrap in as many real-world elements as possible into the movie. It’s a dramatization that fades into documentary at times, seemingly juggling two portrayals at once. Rather than focus on the primary players, and on its hero especially, the movie gets distracted with its supporting cast. Somewhere in Patriots Day is a simple, action film, but the movie seems weighed down by being everything at once.
The performances were nothing new from the actors. Patriots Day features a lot of solid portrayals of characters, but nothing that sticks as an especially compelling figure. Mark Wahlberg is very in his element, hitting every action hero note with that distinctive Bostonian accent. J.K Simmons and Kevin Bacon do good work with their roles, but they’re still only fringe characters in the story. The most compelling performance is by Alex Wolff – partially because he brings a layered portrayal, and because we spend so much time with him. Besides these central figures, the remaining one-off cast members don’t do enough to push the movie forward.
The film clearly took a lot of care to preserve the Bostonian spirit. The movie’s end is made up of interviews with the real people involved. It’s jarring to see these real people onscreen, after spending so much time with their fictional portrayals. But to see these real people discuss their real experiences lends more significance to the events. It’s the strong center that makes the film work, despite its structural flaws. It is a shame that the film can only be appreciated within the context of the real events. But it does help to keep the movie’s firmly established roots in reality, accomplishing its ultimate goal.
Patriots Day will open in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles on December 21, 2016
The film will open nationwide on January 13, 2017