Last year, director Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg brought us Deepwater Horizon, a portrayal of the 2010 oil-rig disaster. A mere few months later, the pair are together again for another film based on real events: Patriots Day. Here's my review of the film, fresh from Glasgow Film Festival.

Based on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Patriots Day retraces the tragic event that unfolded on April 15th, when there was a terrorist bombing during the annual marathon. Followed through - mainly - the eyes of Police Sgt Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), we see just how the Boston Police - led by Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) - teamed up with Special Agent Rick DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) and the FBI, to bring down the Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Dzokhar (Alex Wolff), responsible for this attack and all the chaos that unfolded that day, as well as the aftermath and how it really shook the world and the lives of millions.

I, personally, really enjoyed Deepwater Horizon; even just Berg's work in recent years has been fairly enjoyable - the likes of Deepwater, Lone Survivor, even Hancock was fun - however, I feel the director has never quite touched gold - as much as he has tried, and come close. Until now. His latest film, Patriot's Day, came with the promise of being another standard great Berg film but, rather, it's so much more. This is his Mona Lisa, his Citizen Kane, his Dark Knight. Patriots Day is a masterpiece, and it swept me up and blew me away. This is a beautifully directed film; the cinematography is gorgeous and the film cleverly blends archive CCTV footage from the 2013 tragedy itself with, of course, recreated cinematic footage and it's great and seamless. Also, similarly to Lone and Deepwater, Patriots Day follows a similar narrative formula, where the first half is spent building and developing the characters and the second half actually focuses on the tragedy (and, in this case, the aftermath) itself. It especially works for this film, because the screenplay does a superb job of really building these characters and getting us - as an audience - caring for them. They all feel like real, genuine people. The keyword here is real.
Patriots Day feels very real, and it's very harrowing and all the more impactful as a result. Berg does a really good job at juggling the different tones here; the first act is very much so joyous and sweet as it establishes us to our lead characters and shows us their day to day lives, whereas the second and third acts are both incredibly tense and genuinely very hard-hitting. This film is a gut-punch of emotion; perhaps made all the more tear-jerking because of how much we care for these characters and because of how honestly and harrowingly the events are depicted here. It's also all based on true events, and because of how sincerely this film sticks to the source material, it's emotional to just see this all unfold on the big-screen and to even comprehend that this harrowing tragedy actually happened - and so recently too! When the film's not pounding you with emotion, though, it's gripping you with tension, and, as well as he conveys the emotion, Berg orchestrates the tension so masterfully - when the film gets tense, it's nail-bitingly intense, and just simply so utterly enthralling and gripping to watch.

This film has such a stellar cast and everyone knocks it out of the park. I've never considered Mark Wahlberg to be the best of actors but he is incredibly convincing in this; bringing so much humanity, emotion, and levity to the character of Tommy - and to the proceedings too. The biggest praise I can give to the performances is that they all feel so grounded and real; the actors disappear into their roles, and we get so swallowed up and invested into the story and these characters, we forget we're watching big names such as John Goodman or J.K Simmons, but rather just see the characters. Although, again, it is director Peter Berg that is the real star of the show. He has made a film that is simply so astounding. This is one of the best films based on true events in years, perhaps even ever; it works as an honest, emotionally driven portrayal of such a harrowing event; it's an incredibly tense thriller at times too; it's a terrific portrayal of characters and an intense character study, whilst also being one of the most compelling and riveting dramas in a while. This is Peter Berg's work of art; the masterpiece we've been waiting for.


Patriots Day is astounding cinema; genuinely so hard-hitting, emotional, and incredibly tense.This is Peter Berg's best film yet: a true masterclass in seriously riveting and powerful storytelling.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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