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Patriots Day Heavy on Heroism, Harsh Language

<i>Patriots Day</i> Heavy on Heroism, Harsh Language

A gripping, real-life story where terrorists attack, the good guys win, and one feels proud to be an American. Patriots Day is a gritty, intense, ultimately uplifting tribute to everyday heroes and the city of Boston. If you need reminding that love triumphs over evil, this is your movie. 4 out of 5.


This is a policeman's-eye view of the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the investigation that followed and the city-wide manhunt to find those responsible. The story was drawn from real-life accounts of those who were there: survivors of the attacks, first responders, the investigative team and government officials that worked to track down the bombers.

What Works?

Mark Wahlberg grew up in Boston and he does the city proud with his portrayal of (fictional) police Sgt. Tommy Saunders. Saunders is a foul-mouthed, abrasive cop with a chip on his shoulder but when faced with a crisis, his deep-seated integrity and love for his city shines through. With all the news reports about officers behaving badly, it feels good to have a chance to cheer for the police. Director (and co-writer) Peter Berg showed impressive restraint considering the amount of explosives and gunfire involved; Patriots Day could easily have morphed into action-movie mode, but it never crosses that line. There is "action" but it's not the core of the story.

What Doesn't?

As a string of characters is introduced, it's obvious A) we're supposed to like them, and B) something bad is going to happen to them. On the one hand, that does create tension. On the other, it's a bit formulaic. But formulas are what they are because they work, and it certainly does keep the audience on edge worrying about the people they meet.

Just when the story seems to be ending on a high note of "Boston Strong," the filmmakers trot out some of the real people depicted in the movie. This can be viewed as an overused device or a thoughtful tribute, depending on your mood. They're lovely people, who make some profound remarks, but the segment feels as though it was tacked on as an afterthought.

Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes

Several people make the point that when faced with evil, the people of Boston responded with love. And love won.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)

  • MPAA Rating: R for violence, realistically graphic injury images, language throughout and some drug use 
  • Language/Profanity: For the first few minutes the F-bomb appears to outweigh the rest of the dialogue 2-to-1. It slows down after that but profanities are present throughout, including "Jesus [effing] Christ," "motherf***er" and "c***sucker" along with words like b**ch, d**n and so on.
  • Sexuality/Nudity: A married couple jokes about staying in bed all day; they are later shown in bed. There's some writhing around, but nothing explicit is seen.
  • Violence/Frightening/Intense: Assuming the viewer knows about the Boston Marathon bombing—and who doesn't?—the film is intense from the get-go. Once the bombs explode things get gory, with rivers of blood, severed limbs, and ugly wounds. The taking of the terrorists involves significant gunfire, bombs, grenades, exploding vehicles, and other mayhem.
  • Drugs/Alcohol: Several people shown drinking a variety of alcoholic beverages; a college student smokes a hand-rolled "cigarette" that is still illegal in most states.

The Bottom Line

RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone who wants to be reminded that there are still people out there who respond to violence with courage and love.... and who don't mind very strong language, intense situations and blood.

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Young or sensitive viewers who may not be able to handle the aftermath of the bombing (or the language).

Patriots Day, directed by Peter Berg, opens wide in theaters January 13, 2017; available for home viewing March 28, 2017. It runs 133 minutes and stars Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons and Michelle Monaghan. Watch the trailer for Patriots Day here.

Susan Ellingburg spends most days helping to create amazing live events and most nights at the movies, at rehearsals, or performing with vocal ensembles in the Dallas area. This leaves very little time for cleaning house. A natural-born Texan, Susan loves all things British, Sunday afternoon naps, cozy mysteries, traveling with friends, and cooking like a Food Network star (minus the camera crew).

Publication date: January 12, 2017