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Not flawless, but 'Patriots Day' one of year's best

By DAN JONES / VN FILM CRITIC
On February 15, 2017

Why has Peter Berg’s latest film, “Patriots Day,” gotten such a limited theatrical release?

Is it anti-American? Anti-Muslim? Anti-government? Anti-diversity?

No to all of the above.

Then it must be poorly made, grossly inaccurate or boring. Nope.

“Patriots Day” is about the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. It isn’t flawless, but it’s by far one of the best movies of the year.

The reason one goes to the movies is to watch likable characters overcome conflict (inner/outer) or squirm at the mayhem we humans are capable of. And “Patriots Day” delivers on both accounts. “Boston Strong!”

Berg’s film from last year, “Deep Water Horizon,” had the same issue. Posters were everywhere. Trailers constantly played. But once it was released, the film sank. Fearing the worst, I waited for it to screen at a nearby dollar show.

To my surprise, there was proper character development. A true story about the BP oil spill, it was familiar yet engaging. All this without sappy, forced heartwarming scenes.

This formula worked just as well when he applied it to “Patriots Day.”

So what’s going on? Berg’s films aren’t political, politically incorrect or bad.

Let’s back up a little.

The first of Peter Berg’s three true-story films was the intense, widely-accepted “Lone Survivor.” Mark Wahlberg, who has star power and the acting skills to pull off the role of a passionate soldier, gives a committed and unflinching performance.

But Wahlberg is also in Berg’s last two films. What’s the problem? Is there one?

The only Berg “hating” I could find revolved around his meme disrespecting Caitlyn Jenner, which was followed by an apologetic meme stating his support for equality and trans-people.

Maybe we’re more interested in films like Clint Eastwood’s box office smash “American Sniper” because of the stranger-than-fiction incidents that can occur during filming of an already-remarkable story (look it up).

My assumption?

I think Berg’s stories are too accepting. They cover the truth, but maybe we can’t deal with our current or earlier reactions. Perhaps objective lenses are hard to peer through retrospectively (once the films are finished and we reassess our opinions of war, oil and patriotism).

Can we really have an oil spill and still use oil? (We do.)

Can we root for a soldier while accepting members of the enemy he’s been fighting? (We do.)

Can we still run marathon races after such a scare? (We do.)

Love can conquer evil.

Good is better than bad.

The marathons go on.

This is Berg’s message.

So, since the Patriots won, celebrate and show your love. Go out and see “Patriots Day” with a painted face, a foam finger and some popcorn.

 

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