First off (and I’ll freely admit this) thank you CBS Films, Lionsgate, and Peter Berg for making a grown man cry in a theater.  I mean I wasn’t sobbing or anything.  But I was definitely misty at certain points watching this film.

For the second film in a row Peter Berg has made a movie about an American tragedy.  Last year’s Deepwater Horizon starred Mark Wahlberg and told the true story of the horrible explosion and sinking that befell the actual Deepwater Horizon vessel (and the tragedy that ensued from it).  On a 156 million dollar budget it only made 61 million dollars in the United States.  I was very surprised to see that the film earned 57 million dollars worldwide (I’ll explain why in just a second).  Still – the total box office gross was a skimpy 118 million – well below the budget.  The film did need the huge budget – you needed the money to be able to tell the tale of this monstrosity sinking.

It just feels to me that Deepwater Horizon is a very American film – it is our tragedy.  Will people around the world care?  I would say “sorta” just based on the money it did make outside of the United States.  Perhaps it is the subject matter – a ship that looks for oil.  Everyone can relate to needing oil if you own a car or have oil heat.

When it comes to Patriots Day I also feel it is also a very American film.  This is made for an American audience and may not play well outside the United States.  Now the production budget on this flick is only 45 million dollars so director Peter Berg spent A LOT less telling the tale of the Boston Marathon bombing and ensuing investigation then he did on Horizon.  Still – audiences are not flocking to it.

Maybe it is just the subject matter.  At the box office an uplifting movie about three black women at NASA strugging with racism and segregation is king (or, perhaps, queen).  This is followed by a lovely musical, an animated musical film starring a cute koala, and another behemoth Star Wars film.  Maybe it is just bad timing that Patriots Day had to come out against all these films.  Again – the subject matter is a Debbie Downer.  Why see bombings when you can see an elephant sing or Darth Vader swinging a lightsaber?

Patriots Day is based on the book Boston Strong (which I think is a better movie title) and tells the story of a Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg).  Saunders is working the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.  It’s a beautiful day.

Before we even get to the race we see different people going through their every day lives.  Why?  Who are these people?  Why do we care?  Because obviously these will be victims.  Showing them, even for a few minutes, allows you to get to know these characters.  It’s important because when the bombing actually happens they aren’t all just nameless faces.  The same is done for our two bombers and their family.

The race starts.  The runners run.  As droves of runners come into the finish line two bombs go off seconds apart.  It’s chaotic.  There’s body parts.  There’s casualties.  Limbs are torn to shreds.  People are running away.  People are running to help.  Tourniquets are quickly applied.  Ambulances are called in.

The runners keep running too – unaware of what is going on.  Saunders screams into his radio that a perimeter needs to be set up.  They also need to try and preserve the crime scene.  With two separate bombings right down the street from each other it is a mess.  Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) is immediately on scene and it doesn’t take too long for the FBI – lead by Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) – to arrive as well.

Someone needs to take charge (the police or the FBI) and DesLauriers has to make the very quick decision if it was terrorism or not (if it is – the FBI leads the way with the Boston PD assisting).  The quick deduction is that it was terrorism.  The cops and FBI start working at breakneck sleep (and start running on fumes) as they try to close in on who the terrorists are.

As for the terrorists?  They are home…watching TV.

That is until the FBI starts figuring things out.  And that is where the film really kicks into high gear.

Sergeant Saunders is all over this film leading the way and I thought to myself, “Was this guy really used in every facet of the investigation?  If so that is really impressive!”  A quick Google search after the film told me there is no Saunders – it is just a composite character.  Is that a bad thing?  Well it is not the truth.  But by having a hero cop help along the way you have a main character to follow.  It can be important and works well here.  I’m sure many fine police officers did what “Saunders” did.

The film dragged here and there.  Maybe in the beginning it can be just the anticipation of what is going to happen – especially as these ancillary characters are introduced.  We get it – the filmmakers want us to care.  But that storytelling takes time.  It also drags a bit throughout the movie.

This is my only legitimate gripe with the film.  The rest of it was pretty top notch.

The action is pretty intense.  The bombing is BRUTAL.  You feel like you are in the middle of these shootouts.

The movie is very pro-police without saying a word about being pro-police.  They are there to do a job and when evil men are out there they are stopping at nothing to take the bad guys down to keep the people of Boston safe.

The acting is great.  They assembled a great cast.  Alex Wolff is terrific as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger terrorist.  He’s a great kid actor.  He was terrific in that bad Greek Wedding sequel.  And he’s actually playing Derf in the My Friend Dahmer movie (as I’m a huge of Derf and his graphic novels I’m psyched).

John Goodman, J.K. Simmons (playing a Sergeant based in Watertown), and Kevin Bacon aren’t gived too much to do but their presence alone brings gravitas to the flick.  Michelle Monaghan plays Saunders wife and she’s great as always – she’s just not in the movie enough.

I was floored in the third act.  I really didn’t know what the police went through when they actually caught up with the terrorists.  What they went through was hell.  Berg did an excellent job on-screen showing what that hell really was.

Another bonus?  Another kickass score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

If this film interests you in the slightest just make the jump and go see it.  It shows great people doing extraordinary things in the wake of a terrible tragedy.  It shows what happens what you hurt Americans.  We don’t cower.  We band together.

Peter Burg – I just recommend something lighthearted next.  Maybe it is finally time to direct The Rundown 2.