The day is fast arriving when we will all prefer to get our understanding of current events through realistic re-enactments on video rather than through the written word.
Patriot’s Day, the recreation and dramatization of the events surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the manhunt for the perpetrators of that attack, was one of the films that I probably intended to avoid. It nevertheless got good reviews, both in the press and on-line, and I decided to bite the bullet. Or swallow the Quinoa.
On one the level, the film was a very straight retelling of the news events. The footage we’ve all seen was recreated and enhanced using CGI to give a hyper-realistic view of the terror attack and the manhunt. There were a number of times watching the movie I was sure I was seeing actual footage from the attack. But was it? Who can tell?
Yet, for all of that, the film managed to breath suspense into a story that I’ve read dozens of times. I know all the key events of that week. The marathon bombs, the random attack on the MIT security officer, and the shootouts that followed. I was still engaged by the way the story was told.
I was also concerned that I was going to see a “they’re all heroes” version of the telling, and was pleased to see some more nuanced narrative. I’ll not dwell on the details, but there was a bit of tarnish on the standard heroics.
The most questionable decision, at the end of it all, was creation of Mark Walhberg’s character. Many of the characters in the movie are portrayals of the actual figures in the tragedy. Walhberg’s Tommy Saunders represents a number of other figures, as well as a proxy for the viewer. The writers chose to make him a relatively senior officer currently in the doghouse. For what, one wonders? Some drinking problems are alluded to, but specifics are left out. It’s almost like they started to develop this angle on his character, and then cut it.
A reason for such a character is to give the viewer an anchor while moving through time and place. To see everything through Saunders’ lenses, Saunders himself must see everything. So he is senior enough to hobnob with Police senior brass, but must also perform the lowest level job (dog house). So he, simultaneously, has experience as a murder investigator as a plainclothes detective, but also walks the beat on Boylston St. and can, from memory, recite all the CCTV camera angles that capture the bombing suspects.
Also, no matter where things go down, he’s out there driving his car. MIT officer shot in Cambridge – Boston Detective/Sergent/Patrolman Saunders bangs a U-ey and heads to the sound of the guns. Suspicious activity in Watertown? Somehow, BPD Saunders is first on the scene.
His escapades are, I think, made all the more absurd by the fact that the rest of the movie is trying to be a docudrama.
In any case, back to the original question. Is this the way you prefer to get your “news?”