"Patriots Day" earns its stripes

"Patriots Day" is a fervently patriotic, but solidly made thriller from director Peter Berg. At first, I was ready to dismiss this picture as another America-rah-rah kind of film and the trailer did hint at that being the case. What I wasn't expecting was how cinematic Berg's film would be. The electrifying manhunt for the two terrorist suspects that concocted the tragic Boston Marathon Bombings back in 2013 is more than enough to sustain your attention throughout this 133-minute film. The way Berg does business here is blunt and effective, he doesn't hold back and just lets the story take over you.

The bombings, which caused 3 deaths and injured 264, led to a massive manhunt, but the film doesn't only focus on that. It also focuses on the heroic tales of simple folks that tried to make a difference that day. The extensive research that Berg and company made does show, the professionalism at hand leads to a hard-earned film that does the city proud. I would know, I now live in Boston and at the press screening for the film, more than a few week ago, there weren't many dry eyes in the house. Mark Whalberg's, fictionalized, Sergeant Tommy Saunders might be the main hero of the film, but it's the people of Boston that come through in being the heart and soul of the film.

Shuttling through an array of characters and storylines, "Patriots Day" is a messy film, it sometimes over-excitingly gets over-cooked, but there is something to be said about a film with this much heart. The sappy sentimentalism is there, so is the need to oversimplify its message of good vs evil and the much-feared "America rah-rah" is there, but when Berg sticks to investigative chaos and action sequences we are sucked right back into its frames. None more immersive than the Watertown confrontation between Boston Police and the two terrorists. In the blink of an eye this seemingly quiet neighborhood gets turned into hell on the streets, as bombs explode, artillery gets used and horrific screaming occurs with every jolt. It recalls the very best of Paul Greengrass, who is an obvious influence for Berg here, and catapults you right into the thick of things in that historic day [B]