Patriots’ Day director Peter Berg with actor Mark Wahlberg
Patriots’ Day is a 5 Star film from it’s opening scenes to the credit roll, Director Peter Berg delivers a perfectly paced thriller about April 19, 2013, the day of the Boston Marathon when 2 terrorists set off bombs on the crowded streets, murdering, mutilating and wounding its people. Berg outperforms Lonesome Survivor (2013) and Deepwater Horizon (2016) drawing deeper emotions for those whose courage saved lives and showed strength in unity. At times I didn’t know whether to cheer or cry as I watched first responders challenged by human emotions of sorrow, pain and the call to action.
Character development goes a long way in this violent type of film. Unlike Titanic, where I didn’t really care who fell off the boat, Berg has me believing I’m somehow related to these officers and bystanders. Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K Simmons) bringing his wife a blueberry muffin for breakfast, a young couple whose love is blossoming, or a nurse who saves lives everyday, I’m with them all the way.
For the second time this year (the first was Deepwater Horizon) Mark Wahlberg shines in crisis mode. As officer/detective Tommy Saunders (a combination of Boston’s finest), Wahlberg delivers the lines of why Boston folks are strong, watch out for each other, and work together. His lines are heartfelt. After all, he went to school just 250 yards from the marathon finish line. Wahlberg is a master of crisis as Berg is with explosions—I hope they both keep them coming.
The film’s resolve includes several of those who lived to tell their story, stories of innocent people who gathered for a healthy, outdoor event turned tragedy. My thoughts were ranging from “God, I love the people of Boston” to “shoot the _______!” I realized that Patriots Day touched me in a reflective way. I questioned whether I would be as resilient as those who lost their leg(s) or a loved one? If I had the good fortune to escape the explosives, would I turn back to help those in need? Thankfully there were those who were unyielding in their determination to heal and to track down the bombers.
The trailer for Whiplash had me at the drum roll. Whiplash writer and director Damien Chazelle said he based this compelling work on his own very competitive jazz band experience.
How refreshing to have J.K. Simmons (Juno) as the abusive band instructor Terence Fletcher whose profanity and slapping may cause some to cringe and others like myself to say “what a great bad guy.” For years I’ve heard stories of nuns with rulers and now finally, a band leader who throws things and yells. (My husband is one who won’t see it—he prefers changing the paper in the parakeet cage to bloody hands and junior high tirad mixed with locker room potty mouth.) For me Fletcher’s “bad guy” provided an already fine actor with a role to show us how he really acts; and show us he did.
Miles Teller is Andrew Neiman a nineteen-year-old first year jazz student at a prestigious school. Andrew lives and breathes the drums with his heart set on being great like Buddy Rich. Fletcher recognizes the student’s dedication and is determined to make him push harder—much harder. Such efforts drew criticism from Forrest Wickman in Slate who writes that the film is a distorting jazz history and a misleading notion of genius. “A mounting body of evidence shows that no amount of practice, whether 10,000 hours or 20,000 hours, guarantees true genius.”
I don’t know about genius, but I disagree with Wickman about practice. I believe that a student who wants to play like Buddy Rich knows it’s not just about the hours. What a student does with his drumsticks or a basketball has more to do with his determination and his passion.
I watched Whiplash in the comfort of an AMC theater lounge chair alongside my daughter Laura who takes a turn at the drums herself. “I’m glad people are interested in this film,” she said adding, “I don’t always see such interest in the arts.” I agree.
February 22 I’ll be watching for Simmons to accept an Oscar and can only hope for another script he so deserves. For the record, I would like to give Tom Cross the Film Editing award though American Sniper’s duo are deserving. We’ll see.