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Movie review: ‘Patriots Day’ an emotional journey through a terrible day 

Patriots day

–For those who didn’t grow up in Boston or live in Boston at some point, Patriots Day might not mean much. But for those who are a part of that city and its rich history, it means a lot. Patriots Day is a holiday in Boston. It’s a day when the Red Sox play early in the morning and the Boston Marathon draws people in droves out for a day in the sun. It’s a Monday in April, but it’s so much more to residents of that city.

And on April 15, 2013, that day was marred by tragedy. That was the day two brothers decided to make a statement, detonating bombs at the finish line of the marathon and taking three people’s lives. Of course many more were injured, and others died in the subsequent days until the terrorists were captured.

A day that was meant to be a celebration kicked off a week of fear for Boston. The new film, “Patriots Day,” captures that day and the days that followed. It’s a violent, sometimes difficult story to watch. But it’s also a beautiful tribute to those who persevered, and to the city that’s come to be known as Boston Strong.

The film centers on Sgt. Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), a detective who’s trying to work back into the good graces of his superiors at the Boston Police Department. He has one last assignment on this tour of making amends, and that’s to serve as the supervisor for the officers at the finish line of the marathon.

Weary and unexcited about being back in uniform to work the marathon, Saunders and his fellow cops soon find themselves in the midst of chaos. As the bombs go off, they’re left to get help to the wounded and begin an investigation.

The scene is soon crowded as Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach) and FBI Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) arrive to try and sort out the madness. The FBI takes over the investigation and labels it terrorism, and the hunt for suspects begins.

While Boston becomes a place of fear and chaos, brothers Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) sit back and admire their work, planning their next move. When that next move goes wrong, they find themselves in a firefight with Watertown Police Department Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons) and his team, plunging the city into a total lock down until the brothers can be caught.

Director Peter Berg is no stranger to doing emotional films based on true stories. He famously adapted “Friday Night Lights” as a film, and also a TV show. And earlier in 2016, Berg teamed with Wahlberg to bring the story of the tragedy on the Deepwater Horizon to life.

Here, Berg worked on the script with Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer, and re-teamed with Wahlberg as a star and producer to bring the events of that fateful week to life. The film got a short release before the end of 2016, but finally went wide last Friday. It’s an emotional and gripping story, and one that in some years might be an awards season competitor.

Some of the victims and their families were opposed to the telling of the story, believing it to be too soon. Only those who lived through that week in Boston can really say for sure how it feels to see it re-created on screen, but this is a movie that in large part is meant to be a love letter to the people of Boston. While most of characters in the film are real-life heroes who played a part in the events, Wahlberg’s Saunders is a composite of the officers who took part in the manhunt to restore a sense of peace and security to a city that badly needed it.

This is an emotional film that doesn’t pull any punches. In addition to following the police officers, FBI agents, city and state leaders that led the investigation, the film follows victims of the attack and those who were victimized by the Tsarnaev brothers in the days that followed. It’s a harrowing and emotional journey that is brought to life beautifully by the talented cast and crew.

One of the most emotional and touching parts of the film comes at the end — footage of the real life events and interviews with those who survived it. That coda serves as a loving tribute to the people that make up the city, and adds an emotional wallop to all that comes before it.

“Patriots Day” isn’t a perfect film. And it’s certainly predictable, especially for those familiar with the event. But it’s a well-told story that does a nice job of celebrating and honoring those involved in a way that doesn’t feel exploitative.

“Patriots Day” has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for violence, realistically graphic injury images, language throughout and some drug use. Enter with caution.

Four stars out of four.

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About the author: Columnist Matthew Fox

Matthew Fox is a graduate of Biola University's Radio, Television, and Film program. He is an avid film and TV fan, and writes about both on his blog, each week. He lives in Colorado Springs, CO with his wife, Lindsay, where he follows the second love of his life, the Denver Broncos.

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