Director Peter Berg has brought Patriots Day, his latest true-story film, to theaters nationwide. Starring Mark Wahlberg, the film is Berg’s latest real-life drama, telling viewers the story of the Boston Marathon bombing; the film shows how one state came together in the midst of the nation’s worst terrorist attack since 9/11.
Wahlberg delivers a moving performance as Boston police officer Tommy Saunders. Saunders, the fictional composite of multiple real first responders, is woven into the story from beginning to end. He is the one who makes sure the men in charge remember that this attack affects Boston as much as it affects the country as a whole.
Along for the ride is Michelle Monaghan, who plays the character Tommy Saunders’ wife. Berg also casts J.K. Simmons as real-life police Sergeant Jeffrey Puglies, who is on the outside looking in as the events of the bombing take place, not expecting to face the two bombers in person.
As the story begins, we are introduced to MIT police officer Sean Collier (Jake Picking) who is interested in a MIT student and is taking her to a concert that weekend.
As the story picks up speed, we are introduced to the Tsarnaev brothers. Tamerlan is a dedicated Islamist fanatic and an aspiring boxer, while Dzhokar is a 19-year-old drug dealer who is attempting to prove himself to his brother. We are also introduced to Tamerlan’s wife Katherine Russell (Melissa Benoist), who is an enigma to the FBI.
Berg intertwines his film with live footage of the bombings as well as the movements of the bombers. Kevin Bacon appears as FBI agent Richard DesLauriers, who works with Wahlberg’s character to put a timeline of camera footage together to trace the movements of the Tsarnaev brothers. Berg allows viewers to see the bombing vividly but does not focus on the carnage.
We are also introduced to Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach), who fight over whether to release photos of the bombers to the media or not.
While the film reminds viewers of what happened to the country on the fateful day, we are also reminded that no matter what happens, the country faced it united. Patriots Day succeeds in telling that story, taking some liberties with the reality to bring it into focus and to life.