While, unfortunately, it is undeniable that we, in 2017, live in a time of violence, as teenagers in St. Louis, Missouri, we are often sheltered from the everyday violence that is normal for many. This is why it is such a shock when certain events that harm the lives of so many people, through their physical or emotional loss, are so shocking. Now these attacks are nothing new, and have unfortunately become semi-normal since 9/11. Like many students at Chaminade, however, I was very young on 9/11, and so the first true terrorist attack that I distinctly remember from my lifetime is the Boston Marathon Bombing, the subject of the new movie, Patriots Day.
For this reason, upon seeing the film, it was an extremely powerful experience. While watching the events of the movie play out, I continually thought to myself, “I remember when this happened,” and it made the events seem all the more real, and all the more sad. That being said though, there were so many elements of the tragedy that I had no idea were in play, so in a way, it was like experiencing it all over again in a whole new light.
For those who are not familiar with the attack, on April 15, 2013, which was the third Monday of the month, that being the day that commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord known as Patriots Day, the annual Boston Marathon was held. It started normally: runners taking their marks to run the 26.2 mile trek, families, friends, and other Bostonians lined the streets hoping to catch a glimpse of their loved ones. Many were lucky enough to find a spot along the fence or at a table at a bar overlooking the finish line: This was where the bombs were planted. As runners began crossing the finish line, all absolutely exhausted, the crowds cheered, distracted by the thrill of the race.
This gave brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev a chance to plant backpacks containing homemade explosives in two different locations. The marathoners began crossing the finish line more and more frequently, until at exactly 2:49 p.m. the first bomb went off, and then the second only 15 seconds later. Within a single minute, three lives were lost, including that of an 8-year-old boy, and nearly 250 people were injured. They were taken to and treated at 27 area hospitals, many losing limbs in the process.
The violence did not end there, however, and over the next few days, the Boston police department, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security scrambled to find and bring in the people who were responsible. They were eventually successful, but not before the brothers kidnapped and carjacked an MIT student, with plans to drive to Times Square and attack again, shot a cop to attain his gun, engaged in a shoot-out with cops in the Watertown district, ending with the death of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother, and the discovery of Dzhokhar, the younger brother, hiding out in the boat of a Boston civilian.
Peoples’ lives changed that day, and it was tragic to behold.
As for the movie itself, it follows Mark Wahlberg’s Officer Tommy Saunders, who was not a real person like all of the other characters, but was added into the narrative for the sake of having a common thread who was present at all the events making up the attack. Wahlberg did a great job starting from scratch, and created such an emotionally relatable character with so much depth that you would believe that he was actually there, struggling between the stress of the investigation and the emotional consequences of the bombing. In the film, Wahlberg reteams with his Deepwater Horizon director, Peter Berg, who also wrote the screenplay along with Matt Cook. Berg did a fantastic job with this movie, but it really wasn’t very different from much of his previous work.
That said, that he was able to balance not only the character development of Officer Saunders and the extensive investigation, in addition to the backstories of several people who were injured in the bombing and their recoveries, that of Officer Sean Collier, the cop who was shot on the MIT campus for his gun, and Dun Mang, the student who was kidnapped by the brothers, was truly a sight to behold. The movie also boasts a stellar supporting cast in the form of John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, and Kevin Bacon, who all play pivotal roles in the bringing in of the attackers.
Something else that was uniquely well-done in this movie was the sounds in it. From the explosion of the bombs to the wailing of the police sirens and screams of civilians and everything in between, the different sounds throughout the movie was what made the tragedy come to life, and is what made it so difficult to watch.
Despite being a really good movie, there has been one problem that has plagued its success: Timing. At this point it might be interesting to note that there has not been a successful, mainstream movie of the same, first-person format about 9/11. This is because the event was just so tragic that no one has wanted to relive it just 15 years later. It is still too soon. This has been a common complaint toward Patriots Day: that it has come too soon.
Many, especially those who were affected personally, have no desire to return to that week and see the violence, the horror that resulted from it not even 4 years ago, all over again. Though I was not one of the people who was personally harmed, I can attest to this complaint, because wounds like these need time to heal.
However, despite this, Patriots Day is, above all, a tribute to American patriotism. The last 15 minutes of the film depict thousands of Bostonians coming together, showing the world that they would not back down the terrorists that plague the world. It also shows many of the real-life heroes and victims of the event, and in their interviews, they seemed unbroken by the attempts on their lives, and even discuss the positive things that resulted. This is by far the most powerful moment of the movie, because it shows just how appropriately named that it is. It showed that, despite the events of April 15, 2013, we, as a people, were able to be joined together as a nation, and show to the world that the American spirit is truly unconquerable.