Patriots Day, with Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, JK Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin Bacon. Directed by Peter Berg.
THE true life genre has been getting a good boost recently with movies like Hacksaw Ridge and Free State of Jones.
More recent history is revisited in Patriots Day, which is about the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, and the subsequent manhunt for the culprits, Chechen Muslim immigrants Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze).
The story focuses on the Tsarnaevs, a few individuals who were affected by the terrorist attack – the deadliest on American soil since 9/11 – and the work of the Boston police and FBI as they searched for suspects.
A Bostonian himself, Mark Wahlberg is quite aptly cast as police sergeant Tommy Saunders, who proves integral to the investigation. A homicide detective, Saunders has been delegated to marshal duties on the day as a punitive measure for some infraction at work.
Chafing at the indignity, Saunders’ presence at the race proves a godsend after the terror attack happens, as he assists the wounded and uses his knowledge of the downtown area to help the FBI track the suspects’ movements on CCTV footage.
Leading up to the bombing we see the Tsarnaevs planning their attack from older brother Tamerlan’s apartment, creating homemade explosive devices with the aid of jihadist instruction videos. Tamerlan has a wife and child, living with mundane domestic issues at the same time he is plotting the atrocity. His wife Katherine Russell (Melissa Benoist) seems aware of their schemes but her level of involvement was never revealed.
Further demonstrating how evil dwells in the ordinary, younger brother Dzhokhar appears to be a typical college-age slacker, still attending university with dormmates clueless about his intentions.
The political climate at the time is subtly yet aptly conveyed by the initial reluctance of the authorities to declare it an act of terrorism, and even more hand-wringing that the suspects were Muslims. It turned out Tamerlan was on a terror watch list.
Among the people whose lives were irrevocably affected by the bombing are a young couple, Patrick Downes and Jessica Kesky, who both had to have their legs amputated, while family man Steve Woolfenden was injured and separated from his young son, Leo, who was rescued by the police and taken to a safe location.
After the explosions, the Tsarnaevs regretted that only three people had been killed, although hundreds were injured. They next planned to carry out a bombing in New York, and their plans were stepped up when the FBI released CCTV images of them, mostly to pre-empt their release by Fox News, to which the photos had been leaked.
The brothers killed a policeman and hijacked an SUV, taking driver Dun Meng (Jimmy Yang) hostage. But he escaped and alerted the police, after which the Tsarnaevs had a shootout in the Boston suburb of Watertown, using homemade hand grenades.
Tamerlan was killed and Dzhokhar later captured. He is still on death row.