On April 15, 2013, two homemade bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon resulting in the deaths of three people—one an eight-year-old boy—and the maiming of hundreds. The four-day manhunt that followed resulted in the death of one of the suspects and the arrest of the other. The events of this day have been dramatized in “Patriots Day,” directed by Peter Berg.
“Patriots Day” is Berg’s third recent film to depict real-life tragedies. The first was “Lone Survivor,” followed by 2016’s “Deepwater Horizon.” Boston’s own Mark Wahlberg plays Officer Tommy Saunders, a fictional composite character who ties all the pieces of the story together by showing up at all the key places. He’s at the finish line when the bombs go off, he helps the FBI during the early stages of the investigation, he cruises the streets looking for the suspects, and he’s in Watertown during the shootout with Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff) Tsarnaev.
Together with Wahlberg, the other actors shine in this story that pays tribute to the victims and honors the spirit of the city of Boston. John Goodman is Police Commissioner Ed Davis, J.K. Simmons is Watertown’s Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese, and Kevin Bacon is FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard Des Lauriers.
With great effort to present an accurate account, Berg manages to tell the story without dwelling on the perpetrators but rather highlighting the cooperation, kindness, and love that manifested itself everywhere in Boston during those days, especially the sacrifice (and subsequent death) of Sean Collier (Jake Picking), the MIT police officer who wouldn’t hand over his weapon to the bombers. Perhaps the best part of the film was the abduction and escape of Dung Meng (Jimmy O. Yang), the Chinese student who called 911, alerting the authorities to the whereabouts of the Tsarnaev brothers.
Having been a resident of Boston at the time of the Marathon bombing, I was a bit hesitant to see the film. It’s only been three years and when I think of those days I still feel a great sadness for the hatred that perpetrated the violence. At the same time, I also feel great pride in the cooperation of law enforcement, public servants, hospitals and medical staff, and the citizens of Boston. In the end, I’m glad I saw the film even though the experience brought out raw emotions, causing me to have tears in my eyes practically the whole time.
Why tell this story in a film that will make millions of dollars? Because it does not ask us to hate, but rather invites us to celebrate the innate goodness of people. We are strong when we stand together in love. We are Boston Strong.