Mark Wahlberg leads a ticking-clock investigation of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing in Patriots Day

The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing is dramatised with realism and heart

Patriots Day (M18: coarse language and some violence)

Starring Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J K Simmons, Directed by Peter Berg

Patriots Day recounts the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon terrorist bombing and aftermath. It is the third in star-producer Mark Wahlberg’s and director Peter Berg’s true story trilogy following 2013's Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon last year.

Well, true, except for Wahlberg’s composite lead character, Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders, who has the uncanny ability to be everywhere at every scene of action despite a bum knee.

The docudrama filmed on location otherwise sustains authenticity beginning with a sickening sense of dread, leading up to the explosion. Kevin Bacon is FBI Special Agent Richard Deslauriers, John Goodman is Police Commissioner Ed Davis, and JK Simmons is Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese. They and Saunders are among a thousand-strong law enforcement task force combing through evidence, joining forces with survivors and first responders in a race against the clock to identify the Chechen brother bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev before they strike again. 

Real photographs and surveillance footage are interwoven into the 100-hour manhunt that brings the fleeing suspects to a furious neighbourhood gun battle. One was killed; the other later captured hiding in a resident’s backyard.

The movie is an intense chase thriller and, even more, a tribute to the community’s civic heroism and resilience. Jimmy O Yang is particularly memorable as the Chinese app designer, who makes a daring escape from the armed fugitives’ carjacking to alert the police. The filmmakers are heavy-handed in processing the tragedy for triumphant patriotism but their respect is sincere, what with Wahlberg himself a Boston homeboy. 3.5/5

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