Patriots Day (2016)
***Spoilers do not apply, as this is a true story***
On April 15th, 2013, two terrorist bombs were detonated in the crowd watching the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed, and hundreds injured. This film looks at the events preceding that attack, the day itself, and the intense manhunt that followed, as the police and the FBI searched for the two suspects.
Starting the day before, the scene is set in familiar fashion as we get a glimpse of the characters who will feature throughout. Some are runners, some spectators, and some police officers. Star Mark Wahlberg appears as police sergeant Tommy Saunders. Experienced, solid, and nursing a bad knee. We see the Muslim fundamentalist bombers, two brothers preparing to detonate a series of bombs in Boston, and other cities too. The next morning, the crowds are gathering, and the runners preparing to set off. The brothers arrive with their bombs in rucksacks, mingling with the crowd. They leave the explosive devices close to the security fence, then walk away from the area, detonating the bombs remotely, by using mobile phone signals.
The bomb-blasts start the action in earnest, with realistic confusion in the crowd, and the hectic response of the unprepared police on scene. This felt very real, with frantic radio communications and requests for assistance and ambulances, as the sheer scale of the aftermath dawns on the rescuers. Injuries are also shown quite realistically, with clever use of make-up and prosthetics. Fearing more explosions, the authorities clear the scene as fast as they can, sealing off a six-block area around the incident.
For the viewer, the action then switches to the various hospital emergency rooms around Boston, with overwhelmed staff having to deal with traumatic amputations, and hundreds of minor injuries too. The state governor arrives, accompanied by the FBI. They declare that they will manage the scene as a terrorist incident, and the senior agent (played by a restrained Kevin Bacon) takes charge of all the agencies dealing with the crime.
The second phase of the film begins to play out, as the full weight of the technology available to the richest country on earth is brought to bear in the hunt for the two attackers. This actually fascinated me, as we so rarely get such insights into how much can be done, so quickly, by a dedicated team with the right software, and unlimited access to everything they need. Once the suspects have been identified, the hunt begins with a public appeal, and a detailed search of a massive area.
Spooked by seeing themselves on TV, the brothers decide to flee to New York, intending to set off more bombs there. At this stage, the film moves up a gear, and becomes an action thriller. Car-jacks, police chases, and a dramatic final shootout, which naturally involves Sgt Saunders. With one suspect killed, the other goes on the run, prompting the governor to close down the entire city, and authorise a house-to-house search until the second man is in custody. The events surrounding this incident are a matter of public record, much of which was shown live on the TV news as it happened, including the detention and arrest of the younger brother.
This film is very emotional, and it is meant to be. It is a tribute to those killed and injured, and to the law enforcement officers whose dedication tracked down the perpetrators. In many ways it is also a tribute to the city of Boston, and the resilience of its citizens. As such, it is well done, with earnest performances by every member of the cast. Perhaps overlong, at 113 minutes, it nonetheless serves as a faithful portrayal of the event that shocked Boston, and the world.