Films that deal with real-life events - particularly tragic ones, - can be a delicate thing. Even with the minimal of artistic licence, just knowing the events were real make them all the more provocative. While even the purists among us must admit we want to be entertained (otherwise we'd be watching the documentary), when events are overly manipulated it can leave audiences feeling cold or even outraged.
So then, the obligation falls on Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg to wield the responsibility of retelling the story of the 2013 Patriots Day bombing at the Boston Marathon. At this point Wahlberg and Berg should be dab hands at committing true events to celluloid; having worked on Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon together. While there are clear dramatisations and composites of people involved (how else could Wahlberg's Tommy Saunders be present for every turning point?), Patriots Day is gritty and fearless in it's account without ever taking advantage of the event or it's audience.
Patriots Day is a fitting tribute to the Boston Marathon bombing. You often hear terms like "unflinching" when movies that deal with catastrophes are concerned. Where Berg and Co transcend the usual exploitation that comes with "Based on a true story" is the ability to look away when good taste and true sense of honoring those involved is more important than provocation. Where some filmakers may be tempted to glare at the casualties in grotesque detail, Patriots Day instead observes with respect and looks away once the decimation has been made clear.
It's also to Berg's credit that he manages to set up and sustain the emotional strands without derailing the aftermath or diminishing the bombing itself. The characterisation is carefully given enough time to invest in the players and keep the multifaceted tale moving along. Berg's handheld style has always lent itself to the immediacy in the moments, but knowing what's coming adds a feeling of dread as we barrel forward to the inevitable. Add to this merciless shootings, political wrangling, kidnapping and a realistically absurd suburban shootout and Patriots Day is as informative as it is tense.
4* - Mr Berg Goes to (Water)Town