A beautiful day in April, 2013 turned brutal when the
Tsarnaev brothers planted bombs at the finishing line of the Boston Marathon.
Lives and limbs were lost in the bloody act of terror on Patriots Day. But the
crux of director Peter Berg’s film is to recreate how America came together to
find the culprits within 100 hours. The narrative therefore literally counts
the hours before and after the attack.
Following a familiar template, several characters are
introduced as they go about their lives with love and laughter with all of them
converging in their own way at the Marathon. There’s also a parallel glimpse at
how the two brothers plan their mission at home.
When Peter Berg spotlights the horror of terror, he
does it swiftly and effectively. The merging of the maniac and the fanatic that
sums up a jihadi is spot-on. Making it chillingly real is the way the brothers
look American enough to mingle with the crowds. A warped spin on the 9/11
attacks and the fanaticism in the eyes of radicalised wife Katherine, are also
rooted in fact.
Without a doubt, it required the combined efforts of
the FBI, the local police and the public to identify the culprits and nail
them. It’s interesting to watch the officials expertly use video footage and
local knowledge to quickly pinpoint the terrorists. University friends covering
up for the bomber or the ruthless brothers using a Chinese student with his new
Mercedes Benz keeps the drama alive.
But Berg gets carried away when it comes to the
American spirit and that’s where the narrative becomes sluggish. There’s an
overlong battle in Watertown before one brother dies and the city is shut down
to find the other sibling. Mark Wahlberg who plays Boston cop Tommy Saunders,
and is also one of the producers of the film, has at least two verbose scenes
where he breaks down emotionally or has a monologue about good and evil.
After starting off as a gripping real life terror plot,
it ends up as a documentary. Paying homage to the victims, there’s footage of the
Red Sox baseball team, all the cops, the mayor, the governor, the FBI and the
survivors, as they endorse the resilience of America.
For a good film that should’ve been crisper in its
telling, Patriots Day gets a 3*
Bharathi S Pradhan
Senior Journalist & Author