(Note: I know I said a week ago that I couldn’t watch “Patriots Day” yet, but it was glowingly recommended with the caveat that it wasn’t at all “politically correct.” Not sure how a film would manage that and stay true to the reality of the tragedy, but it didn’t, so I’m glad I went after all.)
It’s a sunny day in mid-April New England, and in the Boston that means there are three options, as one character in “Patriots Day” puts it: watching the Boston Marathon, running the Boston Marathon, or cheering on the Red Sox at Fenway Park. In the movie’s opening morning scenes, we move between scenes of ordinary people working out, eating breakfast before the TV, playing video games with friends, and taking photos of a new car. The central character, a police officer played by Mark Wahlberg, grumbles to his wife that he’s stuck with supervising things at the Marathon finish line, plus his knee is acting up from having too zealously kicked in a door the day before. But like a sinister version of “One of These Things Is Not Like the Other One,” one of these groups will be responsible for untold pain and suffering just a few hours later. That would be the brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Alec Wolff and Therno Melikidze), who plan on executing the bombing – and then moving on to New York. Luckily, they are foiled, but it takes a 100 plus traumatic hour time period to accomplish this. No one will emerge unscathed.
As I expected, Mark does a good job in the early part of the movie, managing to maintain an air of good-naturedness (even with his bum knee), whether it’s shooing the guy in the lobster costume away from the finish line or advising a lone Yankees fan he might want to lose the hat, but he gets even better as things progress, and he’s forced into action when the bombs detonate, throwing the previously upbeat gathering into dark chaos. Several people will lose their lives before it ends, others will lose limbs, and one man (Jimmy O. Yang) will be taken hostage and forced to drive the two terrorists on an escape route, but he manages to escape and provide the police with valuable information. Meanwhile pretty much everybody who’s anybody in government and law enforcement gather to track down data on the suspects and recreate the crime scene.
Everyone in this movie is a badass, from Kevin Bacon, an FBI head who responds to learning that Fox News is minutes away from releasing photos by sneering that he’s not going to let those snot-nosed punks leave his cheese in the wind – to Michael Beach, who plays Gov. Deval Patrick fiercely determined to protect his state. There’s also Alex’s wife (Melissa Benoist) who refuses to cooperate with the authorities, and the Framingham police officer who refuses to retreat during the shootout with the remaining brother, Therno, despite backup by the Watertown cops. Heck, this is her turf. John Goodman, playing Commissioner Ed Davis, also does a great job, but then so does all the cast. On top of that, the end, which features the characters’ real-life counterparts, is a surefire occasion for the lump in your throat and the dampness in your eyes to return (if they have indeed gone away). Let’s hope that the early release date doesn’t keep “Patriots Day” from being seriously considered for at least one Oscar nomination for it deserves it.