Like anyone who lived in Watertown during the Boston Marathon Bombings and the aftermath, there was no surprise in how the “Patriots Day” movie turns out, but what was unexpected was the feeling I had leaving the theater with the feelings of April 2013 stirred up by the movie.
The film starring Mark Wahlberg chronicles the events of the bombing, the search for the suspects, and the shootout and manhunt in Watertown. It hits theaters in the Boston area Wednesday, Dec. 21, and will play nationwide in January.
Director Peter Berg and the makers of Patriots Day said at a press conference last week that they focused on getting the movie right, and making it realistic.
In general, the story stuck to the story, while “Hollywood-izing,” some parts of the film. At times, the movie may be too real for viewers.
In their pursuit of making the movie, filmmakers used many of the real locations, and when they could not use the places they recreated them.
They relied on those who were part of the events, including police, FBI agents and survivors of the attacks. This included members of the Watertown Police Department, including Sgt. Jeff Pugliese and Officer John MacLellan – both of whom were in the shootout – and former Police Chief Edward Deveau. They also included David Henneberry, who ended the manhunt when he found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in his boat at his Franklin Street home.
One of the more unrealistic parts of the film was how Wahlberg’s character, Tommy Saunders, a Boston Police officer, found himself at the center of many of the key events of the Marathon Bombing. One reason for this is that the character is an amalgamation of several real officers, focusing on two BPD officers involved in the Marathon.
During the press screening in Boston, and at the premieres in Boston and Los Angeles, people could be heard crying at times. For those who were troubled by the actual events, the movie might be a difficult experience.
The scene after the bombing contained very graphic images, full of blood, body parts and mayhem. The scene where the bombers kill MIT Police Officers Sean Collier while trying to get his gun also proved difficult to watch.
The film also contains some real security footage, including some from the bomb at The Forum restaurant.
The Watertown Shootout scene lasts more than eight minutes – just like the real event – and contains lots of shooting, and bomb blasts. The action in the scene has been questioned about its authenticity, with the pipe bombs lifting the front of police cars feet into the air. However, at the press conference, Pugliese said they got it right for the most part.
The parts of the movie that most acutely brought back the feelings from the time of the Bombings, however, are the scenes focusing on the Tsarnaev brothers. Survivor Jessica Kensky commented on how that was more difficult for her to watch than the bombing scenes.
Themo Melikidze brings a spooky portrayal of Tamerlan, the older of the brothers, to Patriots Day, while Alex Wolff plays Dzhokhar as an aloof but ultimately committed terrorist. Berg said he wanted to include the Tsarnaevs, but did not want to show them as “righteous” in any way. He noted at the press conference that Tamerlan was no angel, adding that authorities told him that he had committed murder before the bombings. FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers confirmed the statement after the press conference, saying Tamerlan took part in a triple murder in Waltham in 2011.
The movie is not all gloom and doom, however. There are plenty of uplifting stories, including the role Pugliese played in the shootout and the heroic actions of Dun Meng the Chinese immigrant who was carjacked by the Tsarnaevs but escaped and gave police a key tip in the case. He also likely saved more lives.
With the movie heading towards its climax, with police honing in on the boat, I realized my jaw hurt from being clenched though most of the movie.
While not wanting to spoil the movie, filmmakers wrapped up the movie with an uplifting segment, we’ll as uplifting as it could be under the circumstances.
Calling Patriots Day uplifting would be inaccurate. The filmmakers did their best to find the silver lining in the Boston Marathon Bombings. The film captured the Boston Strong – and Watertown Strong – spirit of those days, but there’s little solace that can be gained from the events of just 3.5 years ago that left four dead, scores maimed physically for life and many, many more scarred psychologically.
See more coverage of “Patriots Day”: