If you know me, you know that I wasn’t too thrilled about seeing this movie. I may have been going to school in New York when the Boston Marathon bombing happened, but that doesn’t change the fact that I sat in front of my TV for hours and checked my phone minute after minute, waiting for friends and family to text me telling me that they were safe. To put it bluntly, I was a little too young to fully understand the severity of 9/11 and what it meant for the security of our country – but a 20-year-old Reed knew full well what the fear of terrorism felt like after the events of that day back in 2013… which makes me feel, even more, for my friends and family who were there to see, hear, and feel what occurred. The only reason I brought myself to see Patriots Day (2016) is because I got two free tickets through an app I use. I dreaded the movie all day, but when I sat down in the theater, the (terrible) trailers did ease me a little bit.
At the end of the movie, I was left in utter confusion. Not about the plot or any of what transpired – it’s clear that director Peter Berg had a goal in mind when making this movie and that goal was to show audiences that the city of Boston had a very, VERY bad day, and what hurt the most was that, much like the events of September 11th, the tragedy was completely unexpected. Berg is by no means a bad director. He gets compelling performances out of his talent and he doesn’t, by any means, have a “bad eye” behind the camera. Patriots Day does a good job of intercutting footage and actual photography from the events that took place between the bombing and finding Dzhokhar Tsarnaev under that boat in Watertown. But Berg certainly has a target audience in mind and it’s the blue-collar American looking for another blue collar American to “look up to.” If Mark Wahlberg’s character wasn’t fictionalized, this may have been more effective.
While we’re given a front row seat to the lives of Wahlberg’s fictional family and the lives of multiple victims and individuals involved in what transpired (based on real victims, nonetheless), we’re also given a look at the lives of the terrorists responsible. It seems like a great idea, doesn’t it? To flesh out a “villain” and consider their ideals and mentality? Yes, this would be true if this was a fictional story – a hero really is only as good as his villain; but when I’m given a TRUE story about the Boston Marathon bombing, and I’m watching these horrible people be given D E P T H and M O T I V A T I O N, I’m sorry but I don’t think it’s appropriate at all. I have two main points behind this; the first being I have absolutely zero compassion for the people who did this. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but their radicalism and self-motivated atrocities caused people I love and care for to truly fear for their lives and their safety in a way nobody on this green earth deserves. They caused pure havoc in the name of their definition of justice, and director Peter Berg wants me to “understand their motives?” No, I’m sorry, I don’t think that’s right at all. If that makes me the asshole for not having any sort of empathy for them, then I’m fine with being labeled the asshole. This segues into my second point about the characterization of terrorists in general.
Yes, the terrorists involved in the bombings were of Islamic faith – that’s fact. So, if they’re going to be in the movie, that should be accurate. But the way the writers vilify these terrorists with such an extreme approach makes them almost too bad to seem real. When these characters are given dialogue like, “The Americans were responsible for 9/11 and want you to think Muslims were responsible,” it comes off like Peter Berg is trying to give Americans that are watching this a face to associate with terrorism. Webster’s definition of Terrorism is the calculated use of violence (or threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear. But the way Patriots Day handles these terrorists that have been made into blatantly obvious “bad guys” comes off as Peter Berg labeling all Muslims as terrorists: “See! It’s true! Muslims are terrorists!” And it’s that kind of narrow-mindedness that could not be more backwards. What Patriots Day does is give a Muslim face to terrorism so people can watch and say, “We were right.” Terrorism isn’t defined by a race or ethnicity or religion. Terrorism doesn’t have a face or a mascot. It’s terrorism.
Patriots Day has been generally well received and, objectively, for good reason. It’s a brutal and all-too-realistic (and accurate) retelling of what occurred that April afternoon almost four years ago. It walks the line of realism and blockbuster throughout the whole movie, and it does cross over to the latter – such as the Call of Duty-style shootout in Watertown. Yes, that shootout happened, but the scene could have been suspenseful without grenades and cars being blown up as if Berg was out sick that day and Michael Bay took over.
Anyone from Massachusetts will tell you that while what happened at the marathon was pure horror, it also showed that the good still outnumber the bad. For every photo of victims and heartbreak, in the background there were men and women in police uniforms, construction hats, running shoes, or just a Red Sox hat and a pair of jeans helping those in need. When it was all said and done, I could not have been more proud to be from Massachusetts. I’m still proud to be from Massachusetts. I only wish that this was the direction that Peter Berg went in when making this movie. Focus on the countless good guys instead of the two bad guys. Like David Ortiz said, “This is our fucking city,” So why let the people who terrorized it be in the spotlight instead of the people who love it?
For the first time, ever, I think a movie was too Boston for me. Everyone is putting their best effort in to nail a Boston accent, and if you’re Mark Wahlberg, you obviously have it down. John Goodman and JK Simmons, not so much. If you’ve ever seen the Seth Meyers parody trailer, Boston Accent, this movie is literally that. References to surrounding Boston suburbs? Check. Shots of Boston citizens to give the movie authenticity? Check. Boston skyline shots to transition between scenes? Check. Aerial shots of Fenway? You bet. Two characters literally have a conversation on how to pronounce “Sox.” JK Simmons walks into a Dunkin Donuts and asks the cashier how her mother is. This was the first time I ever thought a movie was PAINFULLY Boston. Not subtle in the least bit. I’m surprised no one flipped out for a lack of jimmies on their ice cream.
4 thoughts on “Patriots Day (2016) Review: The bias of tragedy”
I haven’t seen the movie but do you think it was possible that the director was trying to have the viewer understand the terrorist from a psychological standpoint rather than a sympathetic standpoint? I think it’s also important to remember that not everyone watching the film will be from Boston/ MA so the director had to accommodate for all audiences. However since this event only happened a few years ago and is still very fresh and painful for a lot of Bostonians, it would have been nice for him to make the movie more factual and encapsulate around the greater points of the event (like the strong, good people of Boston) to properly convey the sense of pride that people from Boston have. I can’t wait to see the movie still and I’m sure I’ll be cringing at the Boston references as much as you were!
“But the way the writers vilify these terrorists with such an extreme approach makes them almost too bad to seem real. When these characters are given dialogue like, “The Americans were responsible for 9/11 and want you to think Muslims were responsible,” it comes off like Peter Berg is trying to give Americans that are watching this a face to associate with terrorism.”
You may want to do a little research before making a statement like that as criticism against the movie. That was their actual mindset.
I enjoyed reading your review thank you. IMO, there are two movies happening in Patriots Day; one is brilliant, the other mediocre. The docu-drama is top shelf filming and storytelling. One the other hand, there is a weak melodrama woven into the story. The tantrum-prone Sgt Saunders undermines the seriousness of the film and blatantly exploits the real heroes and victims.
Could not have said it better myself!
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