The immediate focus is placed firmly on the behind-the-scenes inter-agency tussles, where everyone from the governor to the mayor to the CIA teccie has an opinion on how best to catch the criminals. Our attention then shifts to the two bombers and their various blunders as they try to skip town. The scene where the man who is carjacked and held hostage by the brothers decides to escape involves probably some of the best action you’ll ever see in the front seat of a stationary car.
Mercifully, the hunt isn't inflated into a cosmic battle between America and Islam – a trap the director, Peter Berg, fell into with his divisive 2007 film, The Kingdom. Religion is not so much avoided as considered irrelevant to the task at hand. When the issue does emerge into the light, it does so sensitively. The wife of the elder Tsarnaev brother is offered the chance to speak (albeit under interrogation) about the challenges of her position and faith, coming across much more relatable than villainous. Alongside the (literal) fireworks of the film's more obvious set piece – the action-packed standoff between the Tsarnaevs and an army of police officers – it is actually one of most compelling scenes in the film.
Where the film falls down is in its handling of Mark Wahlberg’s character, police sergeant Tommy Saunders. Through little fault of Wahlberg’s, Saunders does not live up to the complex hero role the film desperately wants him to fill. His heavily suggested alcoholism and swollen knee, which he injures in a completely unrelated raid in the film’s first scene, are cheap gestures, especially as they are both so swiftly dropped once the film gets going. Any possible redemption story doesn't hold much water. But that's fine, because what shines through is the ensemble cast and the collective effort of the city’s inhabitants, law enforcers and statesmen. And isn't that the point of the story? Isn’t that why they got rid of the apostrophe in ‘Patriot’s Day’?
Ultimately, the film does pack a surprisingly considerable emotional punch. We know that, in the end, everything will be resolved – we even know what the resolution will look like – but it doesn’t always feel that way. That said, films like this, which deal with real-life public disasters, which have already reached us through the news, cameraphones and Twitter, can only rise to a certain level of quality. For its kind, to make a backhanded compliment, Patriots Day is the best it gets.
|What||Patriots Day film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
23 Feb 17 – 23 Apr 17, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|