Year Released: 2017
Directed by: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman
(R, 130 min.)
“We must travel in the direction of our fears.” John Berryman
Hollywood works its magic again in this meticulous recreation of the Boston Marathon bombing. Using quick cuts and short vignettes, Patriots Day is tense and suspenseful even for audiences already familiar with the tragic event.
This is the 3rd pairing of actor Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg, who brought us the equally polished and compelling reality based Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon . Wahlberg is the working-class everyman, Tom Hanks with a blue collar. He brings that authenticity to Sgt. Tommy Saunders, a composite of several police officers working the finish line at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Wahlberg, a Boston native, has never forgotten his hometown or his working class roots. He makes Boston real, not some Hollywood version of it with over the top bean town accents. In fact, the cast labeled him the “Boston dialect coach.” He would stop his fellow actors cold if they didn’t get the accent or the wording just right. There’s even a funny scene between a husband and wife in the film where the husband coaches his out of town bred wife on the correct pronunciation of “Red Sox. ” (It’s “Saux,” by the way.)
One of the many things this film gets right, in this critic’s opinion, is that it doesn’t humanize the terrorists while ignoring the humanity of the victims, which is what the politically correct Munich did when it chronicled the reprisal killings of those responsible for the Israeli massacre at the 1972 Olympics. In that 2005 film the shots of the Munich slayings are interspersed with actual newscast footage, but the killings per se are presented as a kind of artistic montage with quick cuts that shy away from too much blood or gore, distancing it from reality through the camera’s eye. On the other hand, we are up close and personal with most of the retaliation deaths.
In Patriots Day terrorist bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are anything but sympathetic. We first see the younger brother high on something, and he retains that unkempt stoned look throughout. They are brutal, cowardly, and their plans tissue thin, blundering into a violent aftermath that seems largely unanticipated.
On the other hand, the victims’ connect with the audience. We enjoy the playful banter between Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife Carol (Michelle Monoghan), witness MIT police officer Sean Collier’s (Jake Picking) awkward dating attempts, and see a few light moments between Watertown Police Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons) and his wife.
Contrasting with the haphazard terrorists are the meticulous police and FBI agents. An empty warehouse becomes a temporary command station in hours, with tables and tables of analysts searching footage of the bombing. They pour through videos of crowds looking for anything that stands out, and finally see one person who looks away from the explosion instead of toward it as everyone else does.
Kevin Bacon plays FBI special agent Richard LesLauriers, with just the right amount of authority that borders on arrogance a few times, but he draws himself back and even takes time to listen to Sgt. Saunders and his ideas, such as questioning all the victims as soon as possible.
All along, we see the spirit of Boston, or as their citizens call it, Boston Strong. Even in the chaos after the bomb, citizens rush in to help each other. They are bloody but unbowed.
Perhaps there is something about this town, or should I say the working class of the this town rather than its preening Brahmins – a grit, a fighting spirit, a rebellious flamboyance even in its most unworthy that makes for such great film making in recent years: (As well as some terrific Boston recipes, too.)
Manchester by the Sea (2016)
The Drop (2014)
The Fighter (2010)
The Departed (2006)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
But this film captures more than just Boston’s grit, its ability to take a punch and come back from it. Patriots Day is about America itself, our endurance and essence that unite in resolve and love when the worst happens.
A must see.
Sgt. Tommy Saunders is none too happy to have to wear his uniform and bright yellow vest as his assigned duty at the Boston Marathon finish line. It’s the final bit of penance for some infractions the rebellious officers has committed. Some of the silliness he has to contend with comes in the person of Lobster Man, who keeps wandering through barriers at the end of the race.
It’s a bit of comic relief that relaxes us just enough to be shocked when the actual pressure cooker bombs go off.
Enjoy Patriots Day with some delicious Lobster Bisque before or afterwards. Warm and creamy for the winter’s night.
3 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chopped white or yellow onions
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 Tbsp. flour
2 cups seafood stock
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup cognac or brandy (optional)
12 oz (or more) chopped lobster meat
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme)
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/2 cup (or more) heavy cream
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic and tomato paste, and saute for 5 minutes or until the onions are cooked and translucent. Sprinkle the mixture with flour, and stir to be sure that it evenly coats the veggies. Saute for 1 minute.
Add the seafood stock, white wine, cognac, lobster meat, paprika, bay leaf, thyme and cayenne, and stir to combine. Cook for 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning.
Remove the bay leaf and sprig of thyme. Stir in heavy cream, and season if needed with extra salt and pepper.
Then puree the soup using an immersion blender. Or you can transfer the soup in small batches into a traditional blender and blending until smooth. (Always be careful not to fill a blender too full with hot liquids.)