Thursday, 12 March 2020

Movie review: Patriots Day, dir Peter Berg (2016)

A dramatisation of the Boston Marathon bombing and the investigation that followed that event, this is a good film that addresses the real concerns many people have about militant Islam. Mark Wahlberg stars in the film as Boston cop Tommy Saunders, who was there on the day of the explosions and who subsequently participated in the manhunt that led to the killing of Tamerlan Tsunaev and the capture of Dzhokhar Tsunaev.

The film did badly at the box office but got applause from critics. I agree with one of the judgements posted on Wikipedia’s web page. Because I think the film deserves attention it’s good that it is available on Netflix. I found it because it was suggested to me in the home page’s “Action and Adventure” section.

There have been many cases of terrorism in the West in the years since 2013 – when the bombing this film details took place – and radical Islam shows no signs of going away.

Purely as a work of art I have to say that ‘Patriots Day’ does the job it was designed to do, and it does it well. There is no unpalatable exceptionalism on display, no chest-beating, no expressions of a desire for revenge. What there is is a gradual build of tension as law enforcement comes closer to the suspects, a process that took several days. The meticulous planning of the response, and the bravery of the police involved, is displayed in a deliberately pedestrian fashion.

In the end, before the final credits run, there are some clips showing actual survivors talking – rather than the actors used in the rest of the film to portray them – and one of them, a man who had lost a leg in the attack, said something that reminded me of what Jill Hicks said in the aftermath of the 2005 London bombings. Hicks, an Australian who lost both legs, published a book titled ‘One Unknown’ chronicling her adventure and though I didn’t read it I was interested to hear through the media what she wanted to communicate about her experience. Possibly, those closest to this brand of lawlessness have the most moderate views.

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