At 2:49pm on 15 April 2013, two homemade bombs went off 12 seconds and 210 yards apart at the finishing line of the annual Boston Marathon. Three were killed and hundreds were injured. Patriots Day is a film about the people who were involved, those who first responded and those who planned it.
A key success of the film is perhaps its incredible element of build-up. Even though the audience knows what is about to happen, each moment before the tragedy has an element of both suspense and idle naivety. There are three different narratives interwoven into the tale of humanity and catastrophe. The first narrative is that of the first responders, who were racing to try to understand the situation whilst also regain some sense of control.
This journey is shown through the eyes of Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) through whom the audience is guided. The second narrative is that of the victims, who serve as open wounds to the direct consequence of tragedies such as this. The last and most chilling narrative is that of the perpetrators, the two brothers who orchestrated the disaster, and their own motivations.
There is an interesting dynamic shown throughout of a strict elder brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) and an obedient younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) desperately trying to achieve his sibling’s approval. Patriots Day is as much a film about human brutality as it is about the enduring and miraculous nature of human spirit and love. It shows how the events that tried to destroy and divide a community instead only brought people together.
An interesting technique employed by Berg is the use of security cameras and phone footage which works in tandem to replicate the realities of the event. This creates a raw and intense experience, working alongside the film’s incredible attention to detail as shown by the fact they rebuilt the finish line brick for brick to ensure a level of uncompromising accuracy. Overall, Berg has achieved not just a political film but rather a film about the resilience of humanity and endurance of spirit.
Image: S. Pakhrin