I dig Peter Berg’s style. His penchant for docudramas about recent tragedy has paid off twice in Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day. This cinematic recount of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent manhunt for brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff) is tense and heartbreaking, while finding room to be a bit jingoistic without going overboard with its angry-American shtick.
Berg’s regular hero, Mark Wahlberg, stars as fictional police office Tommy Saunders, whose major asset to the investigation is remembering the location of security cameras in downtown Boston. The real heroes—Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon), Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons) and more—get their due, when Marky Mark is not weeping, yelling and pointing his gun.
Berg’s realistic aesthetic—it’s all in the details, like Simmons picking up the cigarette he left outside a Watertown Dunkin Donuts—generates more tension than a fictional thriller due to the emotions it also agitates. The film’s spirit grows ever more contagious as the boys in blue close in on the cowardly perpetrators. Patriots Day is a rare film that might earn its spontaneous, post-film applause.