Cinematic Releases: Patriot's Day (2016) - Reviewed

Part time character actor turned prolific Hollywood film director Peter Berg seems to have hit his stride this year with his third director-actor collaboration with Mark Wahlberg.  Beginning with the harrowing white knuckle wartime thriller Lone Survivor, Berg and Wahlberg created one of the tensest and most terrifying action films in recent memory.  Around September this year the filmmaking team turned over the critically revered Deepwater Horizon and close the year with the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings drama Patriot’s Day.  With two cinematic releases within the same year months apart from each other, Berg is set to strike a second home run with his new film and cements the collaboration with Wahlberg as one Hell of a team. 

Much like the Paul Greengrass directed September 11, 2001 terrorism drama United 93, the film is a real time docudrama look at the terrorist attacks unfolding and a testament to the heroism of those swept up in the aftermath.  Mixing real footage of the horrific attacks with reenacted footage in between cross-cutting among the film’s ensemble cast of key players in the rescue effort, the FBI investigation, the military response and of the perpetrators themselves, the film is a direct and unpretentious attempt to convey the full blooded reality of the experience to moviegoers with all the horrors and triumphs over adversity presented without compromise. 

As aforementioned, Patriot’s Day with the gritty handheld cinematography by Tobias Schliessler has a lot in common with the extreme claustrophobic use of close-ups associative with Greengrass’ United 93, with many shots zoomed in to give a sense of urgency and chaos.  The film’s most poetic element undoubtedly belongs to the evocative and somber score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who are quickly becoming the most original electronic composers working in film since Clint Mansell or Cliff Martinez. 

Adding to Wahlberg is a solid cast of veteran actors including John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan and Kevin Bacon, though no single character is necessarily the lead of the film.  Before, during and after the tragic events, everyone is given equal time in an effort to paint a complete picture of the ordeal that rocked the city of Boston to the core.  Contrary to the poster which seems to suggest Wahlberg will be leading the film like his previous Berg directed efforts, the film freely cross-cuts between all the characters almost like chess pieces moving into place before striking their targets.

Make no mistake, Patriot’s Day is, like the actual footage of the bombings themselves, a tough watch.  We’re thrust right into ground zero as the lives of many innocent people are forever changed in an instant, forcing the viewer to look on at the wounds, amputations and in the end the perseverance of survivors to live on despite the horrendous debilitating lifelong injuries and moving past the crippling trauma.  That said, for Peter Berg it is an extremely powerful film made with the utmost of care and respect for the victims while providing a loving tribute to the lives of all the men and women who gave their all to bring the perpetrators to justice.  One thing is for sure, I can’t wait to see what Berg and Wahlberg have in store for us next!


- Andrew Kotwicki