To my best recollection, this is part three of Mark-Wahlberg-stars-in-a-patriotic-movie-directed-by-Peter-Berg.
I’m not sure how keen I am about making movies about tragedies merely three years after they happen. I wasn’t so sure about it when they did it for the BP oil drill explosion, and I’m even less sure about this one.
Patriots Day ended up being a good movie. Is it better than Deepwater Horizon? In my opinion, no. Deepwater Horizon is not only the more focused film, but it is also better in regards to pacing and character development.
One of the things that irritated me about this movie is that they waste at least the first half hour. They don’t waste their time with bad scenes, but at the very least, the scenes are unnecessary.
The vast majority of that time is spent trying to characterize seven or eight different people including Wahlberg’s character, and it was extremely obvious that the only reason these characterization scenes existed was so that you would have a better chance at feeling sorry for them when the bombs exploded. The only development that doesn’t feel extremely forced was Wahlberg’s character.
And when they wasted their time with all of these other characters that don’t really stick, it made the movie feel more boring and poorly paced.
By comparison, Deepwater Horizon begins the movie characterizing just a few characters that are all important for the entire movie. But not only that, but their conversations serve multiple purposes like giving the audience the small amount of information they need about how the oil drill works and what exactly is causing the conflict.
What did I get from the first part of Patriots Day? Everybody in this movie is a nice person with people that love them, and wouldn’t it be a shame if something bad were to happen to them? Also, aren’t the Boston bombers menacing? The beginning of DH is simply better in how they develop the story, and it was a more compelling movie because of it.
Once the bombing finally happens, the movie gets a lot more interesting, mainly due to the intrigue of the plot and to Marky Mark’s character arc. This fact makes me reminisce about 13 Hours, one of the first movies I ever reviewed, because I had the exact same problem with that movie: it doesn’t successfully invest you into the story until the tragedy finally happens.
Out of all the big name actors, Wahlberg’s is the only one that I would call fleshed out. Sure, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, and J.K. Simmons all do good in their roles, but their talents are all squandered in this movie. It’s very interesting that Wahlberg plays the only fictitious character of the four, so I guess Peter Berg must have felt like he had more freedom to make his character complex.
The only other people who do better than good in their roles are all people I’ve never heard of. The two guys who play the bombers both do really well with the material given to them, and I think the best performance was surprisingly the Asian guy who plays an important part in the middle, and only the middle, of the movie.
The vast majority of the movie was decently shot, and most of the music is passable. Nothing really stood out to me as being exceptional or complex.
The movie has actual footage from the Boston Marathon Bombings, and other assorted footage from other events, interwoven into this movie. Patriots Day almost plays like a dramatically acted documentary of the bombing and the events that occur afterwards. This, along with the ending of the film, made me realize that the primary focus of making this movie was to honor all the victims, police officers, and other heroes of the event. Thus, making an exceptional movie seemed like a secondary focus.
I understand why they had to do this, but it doesn’t change the fact that the movie would have been a lot better if they didn’t try to force you to like all of these characters in the first half hour. The movie would have been overall better if they started the film at the time of the bombing (with maybe 5-10 minutes of setup instead of 30), and then allow all the characters to organically grow and develop because of the incidents that occur.
With that being said, the movie does a fantastic job at honoring the people they want to honor, and they do a good job making an entertaining, thrilling movie. Patriots Day is by no means a bad movie, it is just an unexceptional one.
If you like these patriotic movies that are competent enough, then I would strongly recommend that you see this movie. Otherwise, if you’re just a general movie goer who just wants to see a really well made film, you will still have a good time with this one, but don’t be surprised if you forget about Patriot’s Day in less than a month.