Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Beach, Christopher O'Shea, Rachel Brosnahan, Jake Picking, Themo Melikidze, Alex Wolff, Melissa Benoist
Written by: Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Joshua Zetumer, based on a story by Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
Directed by: Peter Berg
MPAA Rating: R for violence, realistically graphic injury images, language throughout and some drug use
Running Time: 133
Date: 12/21/2016

Patriots Day (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Boston Bonding

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For this tense real-life drama, director Peter Berg weaves a wide, vivid tapestry of the city of Boston, an admirable feat, but his unrefined filmic techniques grow draining after a long 130 minutes. Written by Berg, along with Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer, Patriots Day appears exhaustively researched, drawing on actual stories and events, but somehow making room for a star turn by Mark Wahlberg.

In Patriots Day, the annual Boston Marathon is scheduled for April 15, 2013. Police Sgt. Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) is assigned to patrol the finish line. He complains but tries to do his job well. (His character suffers from a bad knee and has been put on probation; he's exhausted and has seen too much, but keeps going.) Everyone is there, from fathers and sons to couples.

Suddenly two explosions disrupt the race and the police spring into action. The wounded are taken to hospitals, and FBI special agent Rick DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) arrives, declaring it an act of terrorism. A command center is set up, and video surveillance is scrutinized, until two Muslim men are found on the tapes. Then the manhunt begins, the biggest clue coming when the culprits steal a Mercedes, and the car's owner escapes and calls the police. After a showdown in Watertown and a citywide lockdown, the city of Boston shows that it won't let hate stand in the way of love.

Berg puts all of this together, somehow finding the pulse of a city, showing extraordinary little moments from ordinary citizens, giving the movie a strong sense of color and community. Yet the nauseating use of hand-held cameras, as well as a kind of constant, droning/thrumming musical score, tends to induce a jittery, squirmy quality rather than genuine suspense. (A documentary might have been better.) It's awfully gruelling, but the message at the end of the day is that community is powerful, and love is stronger than hate; for that, it's worth seeing.

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