The word "patriot", according to dictionary.com, means "a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion". That's what a small group of armed militia known as "minutemen" did near Boston, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775, when they fired on British troops, beginning the American Revolutionary War. The New England states of Massachusetts and Maine (which, until 1820, was part of Massachusetts), commemorate the anniversary of that day as an official state holiday, since 1969, celebrating it on the third Monday in April. According to Wikipedia.com, "The biggest celebration of Patriots' Day is the Boston Marathon, which has been run every Patriots' Day since April 19, 1897 to mark the then-recently established holiday." The local and national pride exhibited on Patriots' Day took on new meaning after being attacked at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, an event depicted in the 2016 historical drama/thriller "Patriots Day" (R, 2:13).
The film focuses on the people personally affected by the bombing. Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) is a dedicated Sergeant in the Boston Police Department and has a devoted wife (Michelle Monaghan) who works as an RN. Tommy is friendly with Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) and both end up working closely on the bombing investigation with Boston Police Superintendent William Evans (James Colby), FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon), Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (Vincent Curatola) and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach). But before we get to that point, we meet Watertown police officer Jeffrey Pugliese (J. K. Simmons), Chinese immigrant Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang) who is bragging on the phone to his parents about his new SUV, MIT police officer Sean Collier (Jake Picking) who is making plans with some grad students to go to a concert, married couple Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky (Christopher O'Shea and Rachel Brosnahan) who are discussing their plans for the day, and Boston residents and radical Islamists Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolfe and Themo Melikidze) who are making a plan which will disrupt the lives of all of those people, a plan which Tamerlan's wife (Melissa Benoist) may or may not know about beforehand.
Early on Marathon Monday, Commissioner Davis is near the race's finish line and greets Sergeant Saunders, who is simply working security due to an injured knee. Saunders calls his wife to ask her to bring him his bigger knee brace, while Downes and Kensky prepare to join hundreds of thousands of others to watch the marathon. The race goes off without a hitch, until a group of runners are about to cross the finish line and a bomb goes off, followed by another less than 15 seconds later. As frightened bystanders flee and the injured and dead lie on the ground, the Boston police jump into action. Soon, Special Agent DesLauriers arrives on the scene and declares the explosions an act of terrorism. He sets up a large command center in an empty warehouse where agents pour over photos and videos from the scene, desperate to find whoever is responsible for the bombing. After identifying two ball cap wearing persons of interest, which they initially refer to as "black hat" and "white hat", the investigators argue over whether to release the images to the public. Meanwhile, the Tsarnaev brothers are lying low at home, but soon decide to get moving again and begin planning another bombing. Then the brothers run into local police in Watertown – on April 19th, the exact anniversary of that day in 1775 when the citizens of Massachusetts confronted foreigners whom they accused of terrorist acts.
"Patriots Day" is very well acted by its talented cast and perfectly paced by director Peter Berg (in the midst of his third collaboration with Wahlberg – after 2013's "Lone Survivor" and 2016's "Deepwater Horizon"), but this movie's main strength is its script by Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zeturner. Terrorism is ultimately about the people involved – the perpetrators and their victims – and this film does a great job of personalizing its story and humanizing those affected. "Patriots Day" keeps a broad scope (combining the concepts for two proposed movies about the bombing and its aftermath, including one based on the 2015 book "Boston Strong: A City's Triumph Over Tragedy") which gives its audience a good overview of what happened, but tells the story from ground level, through the eyes of its main characters. However, we get little insight into the lives of the Tsarnaev brothers and what motivated them, but that's not what this movie is about. "Patriots Day" mainly concerns itself with the effect the bombing had on its victims and the exceptional spirit, strength and resilience of the City of Boston. From that perspective, the film works well as history lesson, police procedural and mostly, human drama. "A-"
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