ReelBob: ‘Patriots Day’

By Bob Bloom

“Patriots Day” is more than a retelling of the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and injured 260 others.

The movie also is a salute to community — to the law-enforcement officers, first responders and ordinary citizens who rushed toward the explosions to help in any way they could, and to those who led and helped in the investigation to track down the perpetrators of that heinous attack.

Director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg reteam for this suspenseful and sincere retelling of the event that put a spotlight on a city and its people’s grit and resiliency.

Wahlberg stars as Sgt. Tommy Saunders, a fictional composite of the Boston police officers who took part in the investigation to identify and capture the young men responsible for the bombings — the Tsarnaev brothers.

Berg expertly intersperses re-creations with actual footage of the bombing and subsequent manhunt to create a drama that, even though we know the outcome, keeps you glued to the screen.

Smartly, Berg does not make “Patriots Day” a procedural crime picture.

He also takes time to focus on the human toll of the tragedy — interweaving stories of those injured, the suffering they endured and their determination not to allow this calamity to ultimately define them.

The movie seems to be at its best during some quieter moments, such as the state trooper stoically standing guard over the body of the 8-year-old boy killed in the bombing, because the spot is a crime scene, so his body cannot be moved. Then, when the boy’s body is finally taken away, the trooper slowly salutes the lost innocent.

Like most movies based on true events, “Patriots Day” blends fact and fiction, but here it appears to be more seamless than in other projects. Perhaps, this is because the bombing remains so fresh in our minds.

Whatever, the reason, Berg, who wrote the screenplay with Matt Cook and Joshua Zeturner, has created a feature that — again, because of the timeliness of the event — breaks your heart, as you witness the human devastation from this hateful act.

Yet, the movie ends on a note of triumph — not because one Tsarnaev brother was killed and the other brought to justice — but because of the spirit of those wounded in the attack who have lifted themselves up and are looking forward instead of back.

The film’s performances are adequate, with Wahlberg’s Saunders seemingly involved in every important aspect of the case.

Others in the cast include John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, Vincent Curatola and Alex Wolff.

Some may object that it is too soon after the event to make such a film. But “Patriots Day” can be viewed as a catharsis, a way to release the pent-up emotions from that terrible day.

It is a riveting and emotionally satisfying movie that combines tension, compassion, courage and — most importantly — heart.

Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob ( and Rottentomatoes ( He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.

3 stars out of 4
(R), graphic and realistic violence, language, drug use

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