CBS Films
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, Shockya
Grade: B+
Director:  Peter Berg
Written by: Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Joshua Zetumer, story by Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan
Screened at: AMC 34th St., NYC, 12/14/16
Opens: December 21, 2017 (limited) and January 13, 2017 (wide)

Patriots’ Day (the kind with the apostrophe) is an official holiday in Massachusetts commemorating the first battle of the American Revolution in April 1775 and is celebrated on the third Monday in April.  Battles are staged on “the rude bridge that arched the flood” and battles are also staged in Peter Berg’s “Patriots Day.”  Somehow when the British Redcoats came out to fight the American farmers, all sides considered what they were doing an act of bravery.  But the Patriots Day of this film highlights the cowardly, irrational acts of two jihadists, American citizens, the brothers living with the older criminal’s American wife who had converted to Islam.

The movie could be divided into three segments: the first to introduce us to the families of the heroes; the second a recreation of the bombing at the Boston Marathon; the final chapter the police chase together with the full support of the FBI and the Massachusetts governor.  The third part would be most appealing to fans of video games, no disrespect to the cast and crew of “Patriots Day.”  In fact as you watch the jihadists light large firecracker-type bombs, blowing up police cars while dodging heavy artillery from the Law, you might think that this is yet another rah rah action pic.  To the film’s credit, this was probably an authentic reenactment of the explosive meeting of the authorities with the terrorists, including the way the younger brother ran over the older one accidentally while maneuvering his car in a temporarily successful escape.

Boston-bred Mark Wahlberg uses his New England speech to great effect and seems content to be the fictional character named Sgt. Tommy Saunders.  With Michelle Monaghan in a small role as his wife Carol Saunders, the film punctuates the actions of the real heroes including Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons) who near the conclusion tackles a perp, and Jake Picking as the MIT campus cop Sean Collier who died while refusing to give up his gun.  Ample time is given to the people who meet at a communication center to check the surveillance cameras and to determine the identities of the two suspects.  (They seem to have been fingered because while others are running frantically away from the explosion, the brothers are walking casually.) Behind the scenes are Kevin Bacon as FBI director Richard Des Lauriers, John Goodman as Commissioner Ed Davis, and Michael Beach as Massachusettes Governor Deval Patrick.

The perpetrators of the horror, Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) and younger brother Jahar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) plan the act of terrorism, but as they play their roles we get the impression that the younger man is under the influence of the other and may not have otherwise gone through with any such bombing.  They drop two pressure cooker bombs on the ground rather than go through with a suicide attack—which could have been deadlier.  Actual footage of the Boston Marathon are expertly merged with the present-day actions.  The chaotic scene is devastating, actors depicting lost legs (in at least one case the doctors determine to amputate a leg) and one particularly tragic event in which the FBI director orders the cops not to move the body of a murdered seven-year-old.

Yet this is not the kind of film that would have a gung-ho youthful audience at the cinema standing up and shouting “USA, USA.” There seems no intention to use this as anti-Muslim propaganda and little editorializing is employed. If any catastrophe can bring out the best in people, this one did in spades.  By presenting the facts without such editorializing, the filmmakers succeed in making an event that took place in April 2013 like something out of a current newscast.

For more information on the brothers check Wikipedia.

Rated R.  133 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall B+


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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