Film of the Week: Patriots Day (15)
Director Peter Berg and leading man Mark Wahlberg previously collaborated on the testosterone-fuelled action thrillers Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon.
They draw inspiration from another harrowing true story of heroism for this gripping race against time.
Patriots Day introduces a fictional character into the heart of real-life terrorism - the bombing of the 2013 Boston marathon - to pay rousing and sometimes overblown tribute to the men and women who risked their lives in the name of justice.
The script’s queasy conflation of fact and artistic licence runs the risk of glamorizing the hunt for the perpetrators.
We become completely immersed in the investigation as it gathers pace, culminating in a shootout on the city streets.
Vehicles explode, hundreds of bullets scythe through the air, transforming a sleepy nook of suburban Massachusetts into a flaming, debris-strewn war zone.
It’s certainly a pulse-quickening, edge-of-seat rendering of a senseless act that made headlines around the world.
On the morning of April 15, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) and his brother Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) head into Boston with homemade bombs concealed in rucksacks.
They move into the thick crowds of spectators thronging the marathon course, drop the bags and move to safety before detonating the devices in quick succession near the finish line.
Hundreds of people are injured in the blasts.
“We’ve got to decide who’s running this and we’ve got to decide quickly,” Deval Patrick (Michael Beach), the Governor of Massachusetts, tells Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) and the assembled responders.
“It’s terrorism, we’ll take it!” responds FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) as he discovers fragments of a bomb at the scene.
Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Wahlberg) and his wife Carol (Michelle Monaghan), a registered nurse, are on the front line during the subsequent man hunt.
Their resolves are tested along with Boston’s mayor Thomas Menino (Vincent Curatola) and other figures in public office including Police Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (JK Simmons).
Meanwhile, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan steal a car belonging to student Dun Meng (Jimmy O Yang), which they intend to drive to New York to carry out more atrocities.
Patriots Day seamlessly blends footage shot by witnesses, who were in Boston that day, with grainy reconstructions to document events before the explosions up to the point that one of the suspects is found hiding inside a boat.
Berg’s bombastic approach to action sequences sets our pulses racing and he effortlessly holds us in a vice-like grip for more than two hours, even if we know the chain of events from news coverage.
Wahlberg portrays another steadfast all-American hero, who refuses to let anyone harm the city he loves.
The voices of real-life survivors and officers reverberate over the end credits, hammering home the true valour and sacrifice behind the expensive Hollywood pyrotechnics.