A race against time

Pa­tri­ots Day com­pellingly fol­lows those who brought Bos­ton Marathon bombers to jus­tice

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - ENTERTAINMENT - Chris Knight

Pa­tri­ots Day is a crime film. Not, as gram­mar­i­ans might sus­pect, the tale of an apos­tro­phe heist, although I’d like to see that. This is the story of the Bos­ton Marathon bomb­ing that took place on Pa­tri­ots’ Day, April 15, 2013, and the roughly 100 hours that elapsed be­tween the at­tack and the cap­ture of the two bombers.

It’s also the story of peo­ple do­ing what they do best. This is the third col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Mark Wahlberg and di­rec­tor Peter Berg, af­ter Lone Sur­vivor and Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon. It’s the third based-ona-true-story screen­play for two of the writ­ers, eric John­son and Paul Ta­masy, who worked on The Finest Hours and The Fighter (also with Wahlberg). It’s Kevin Bacon’s sec­ond film in a row play­ing an FBI agent. And I’ve lost track of how many times his Bos­ton-born cos­tar has por­trayed a soul­ful, bluecol­lar salt of the earth.

Berg, who also co-wrote the screen­play, brings the whole en­ter­prise to­gether with re­mark­able ef­fi­ciency and just enough wit to re­main re­spect­ful. (In­ter­de­part­men­tal squab­bling is al­ways good for a chuckle, like the Bos­ton cop who re­fuses to leave her sharp­shooter’s perch when the FBI guns show up. “Glad to have you with us, ma’am,” one of them tells her wearily.)

The first 25 min­utes in­tro­duce us to the play­ers, in­clud­ing Wahlberg ’s Sgt. Tommy Saun­ders, a com­pos­ite char­ac­ter who pre­sum­ably com­bines the good looks of sev­eral ac­tual cops; John Good­man as the po­lice com­mis­sioner; J.K. Sim­mons as Sgt. Jef­frey Pugliese from nearby Water­town; James Colby as Su­per­in­ten­dant evans; Michelle Mon­aghan, who de­serves bet­ter than a walk-on as Mrs. Saun­ders; and a hand­ful of soon-to-be-vic­tims.

We also get Themo Me­likidze and Alex Wolff as the bomber broth­ers, one of them a se­ri­ous, self-guided ji­hadist, the other a doo­fus who would count as comic re­lief if the sub­ject weren’t so se­ri­ous. And, af­ter the ex­plo­sions near the marathon’s fin­ish line, which killed three peo­ple and in­jured 170, in strides Bacon as Spe­cial Agent Richard Deslau­ri­ers, whose skills in­clude be­ing able to turn an empty warehouse into a bustling com­mand cen­tre in just a few hours.

The film surges for­ward with a sat­is­fy­ingly stac­cato, po­lice-pro­ce­dural rhythm. We watch one in­ves­ti­ga­tor scrolling back and forth through some video sur­veil­lance footage, get­ting more and more in­ter­ested. But what does he see? Fi­nally, he calls Bacon over and points to the sus­pect who be­came known as White Hat. The man’s tell is that, when the bomb goes off, “he’s the only one that looks away.”

A lit­tle later, Wahlberg’s cop, who’s been run­ning on a diet of Tylenol, the odd slug of booze and a sense of jus­tice, is telling the FBI which stores’ cam­eras to check, as they trace White Hat’s path back­ward from the site of the ex­plo­sion.

The film’s cli­max is a whizbang shoot-’em-up, with Bos­ton cops curs­ing and shoot­ing wildly at the cor­nered sus­pects, who re­spond by lob­bing their homemade pipe bombs at their at­tack­ers. But while Berg clearly knows how to chore­o­graph a gun bat­tle — see Lone Sur­vivor and, if you must, Bat­tle­ship — he also dis­plays a deft hand at keep­ing all the narrative balls in the air. Th­ese in­clude co­me­dian Jimmy O. yang as a Chi­nese im­mi­grant car­jacked by the ter­ror­ists; one bomber’s maybe-com­plicit wife; and a host of other ter­tiary fig­ures who none­the­less get enough screen time and di­a­logue to reg­is­ter as more than ex­tras.

It’s a com­pelling mix of his­tor­i­cal re-cre­ation and narrative flare, no more so than when Bacon’s char­ac­ter ar­rives at the site of the first ex­plo­sion and is re­luc­tant to de­clare it an act of ter­ror­ism. The cops say he’ll be ac­cused of not mov­ing fast enough.

“The ac­cu­sa­tions are go­ing to come no mat­ter what we do,” he replies. Then he spots a shard of some­thing in the de­bris. It’s enough for him. “It’s ter­ror­ism; we’ll take it.” ck­night@post­media.com


Mark Wahlberg in Pa­tri­ots Day. Wahlberg plays Sgt. Tommy Saun­ders, a com­pos­ite char­ac­ter based on cops who re­sponded to the Bos­ton Marathon bomb­ing.

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