Monday, June 26, 2017

Patriots Day

Year 9, Day 177 - 6/26/17 - Movie #2,672

BEFORE: Mark Wahlberg carries over to his other 2016 film about an explosion in the news, also directed by Peter Berg.  I can't help but feel that maybe my chain has become out of sync with the calendar, which could mean that I've taken a mis-step somewhere.  The name of the film implies that it would have been appropriate to watch on July 4 - or in April, since the Patriots Day holiday, and the Boston Marathon, is held then.  (Patriots Day isn't that big of a holiday outside Massachusetts, it turns out.)

But the linking has led me to here and now, and I'm dipping in to the Academy screeners from last year to exploit the Wahlberg connection.  God knows when this will run on premium cable, so as long as I've got the resources to see it, and that will continue my chain, then I should do that.  This will bring my nearly 3-week long treatise on death, destruction and criminal mayhem to an end, tomorrow I can move on to some upbeat animated films.

(If you ignore the documentary break, then I've kept direct linking going ALL YEAR so far, except for like one instance, thanks to a new method of tracking who's in what, made possible by using the IMDB in a different way.  So I hate to break the chain now - that's my final excuse for why this film is landing here, and not on Patriots Day itself or July 4.)

(UPDATE: According to Wikipedia, the planned execution date for one of the bombers was supposed to be June 27, 2017 - which is tomorrow.  The appeals process means that this will likely be delayed for years, but it's still an odd coincidence that justifies my screening date.)  

THE PLOT: The story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the citywide manhunt to find the terrorists responsible.

AFTER: The structure here is a little wonky, because in the opening scenes we are introduced to a bunch of people who are going to be important later - not just policemen but also people who are going to be bystanders in the crowd, or people who are going to cross paths with the bombers, and we're even shown the bombers themselves, having a normal breakfast (while watching a video on how to put nails in a pressure cooker, which may be putting too fine a point on things).  Hey, there's a cop visiting M.I.T. and chatting up a female student, I wonder if he'll factor in to the story later...yeah, you can count on it.  So there's nothing subtle here about telegraphing the story to come, but then again, if we remember the news coverage from 2013, we all pretty much know where this is going, anyway.

I remember that my wife and I were on a cruise when the news of the Boston Marathon bombing broke in 2013.  I paid as much attention to the news as I could, considering that I grew up in suburban Boston and it was the first big city that I spent time in, mostly on Newbury St. and Copley Square and the area around Boston Common and the Public Gardens.  I've never been to see the Boston Marathon, or any marathon for that matter, but I've been many times to First Night, which is a series of art and music events around Boston on New Year's Eve.  So I know first-hand how difficult things can get in that city when it's crowded and confusing and people are having fun - unfortunately that also means that people have momentarily let their guard down, and terrorists can strike.

I remember how the whole city went on lockdown, a curfew was implemented and all business shut down for a few days, which gave the police a better opportunity to track down the bombers - it was probably tough for someone to make that decision, considering that in New York City after 9/11, the attitude was more like, "If we don't hold a baseball game, then the terrorists win." or "If we don't go out to a nice restaurant tonight, then the terrorists win."  We used that excuse a lot in fall 2001 to get ourselves back to some form of normalcy, or just to justify doing whatever we wanted to do.

The other problem with the structure here probably involves the casting of Mark Wahlberg - I mean, I guess you've got to have a name actor that puts asses in the seats, but he's so front-and-center here that it stretches believability, that this one cop could have been on the scene for every major turning point in this case, when in reality it was no doubt a joint effort of dozens, no, hundreds of policemen to track and catch the bombers.  So I guess we're supposed to treat Officer Marky Mark as an amalgam, not one particular character but someone representing all the men in blue who worked this case.  Otherwise I have to allow that on the night they tracked down the 2nd bomber to the boat in that guy's backyard in Watertown, this Boston officer was just out patrolling randomly, off the clock, outside his usual beat, and he just happened to drive through the right neighborhood at the right time.

(I'm going to refrain from typing words like "backyaad" to represent the proper Boston accent, which of course many of these actors try to pull off, some better than others.  And, just like with "Black Mass" and "Manchester By the Sea" the screenwriter here loved throwing in a bunch of phrases that sound great in that accent, like "Red Saax", "Fenway Paak" and "Saage" (Sarge).  At one point there's a man in a lobster costume who tries to run across the finish line, and you know they just did that so a cop character could say a line like, "Hey, Saage, I gotta go, the fecking laabster is back and he's trying to chaage the runnahs...") 

But enough joking around, this is serious business.   There's nothing funny about terrorism, and once the characters here determine that it is an act of terrorism, the FBI swoops in and takes over - or, that's what's supposed to happen anyway.  Once they get the pissing contest out of the way, ("This is MY jurisdiction!") there's a cluster-you-know-what of activity, and once they've got photos of the two suspects, they're quickly leaked to the press, forcing the terrorists to run.  They could have easily jumped on an Amtrak to NYC or Washington, which, considering Amtrak's lax luggage screening, could have been even more disastrous.

It's only the fact that the bombers got sloppy - shooting that cop on the MIT campus and then car-jacking the Asian man who gets away from them - that gave the police anything close to a trail to follow.  (I guess if they had laid low, the cops would have tracked Dzhokar's texts to his friends, but we'll never know.)  And of course, amalgam hero cop Tommy Saunders is on the scene to interview the carjacked guy, after spending all day taking down names of the injured people at the hospital, helping review surveillance footage, and then probably sweeping up the station at the same time, after they stuck a broom up his ass.

And like I said, Saunders is on-hand for the shootout in Watertown, too.  (I'm surprised an enterprising screenwriter didn't move the action to Chaalestown, or even Daahchester.)   AND he's the guy who lifts up the taap on that guy's boat in his backyaad to find the second bomber hiding there.  Come on, give me a break.  And give some other actors some stuff to do, please.

But the real impact of this film came at the end, when they added about 10 minutes of interview footage with the real cops, the real Massachusetts governor and Boston Mayor, the real bystanders who were injured.  It's very sneaky, they did a transition by showing David "Big Papi" Ortiz of the Red Saax entering Fenway Paak, greeted by Maaky Maak Wahlberg.  Then they cut to Ortiz's real speech at a "Boston Strong" ceremony at Fenway, where he wasn't afraid to drop a few F-bombs and tell the terrorists that they did, in fact, mess with the wrong city.  The city officials then talk about how there's been a real kinship among cities that have been affected by terrorism, and as we've seen more recent events play out in Brussels, Paris, Orlando and now London, you realize that even though the terrorists are trying to tear people apart, what they've ended up doing instead is bringing many people closer together.

By the time they showed people who recovered from their injuries and came back to run the Boston Marathon in following years on artificial legs, I admit it, I was tearing up pretty good - and I usually hate runners, and the whole running culture.  I saw the list of the fallen oil-rig workers the previous night and felt practically nothing, but the images in the last 10 minutes of "Patriots Day" left me an emotional wreck.  Maybe it was the Boston connection, I don't know. 

NITPICK POINT #1: The FBI, on the advice of our hero amalgam cop, confiscates all the cell phones from the people in the Boston Marathon crowd.  But how did they unlock the phones in order to see all that footage?   We learned a year or two later when the Feds were trying to crack that suspected terrorist's iPhone that they can't get around the security locks on cell phones, not without trying every random combination of four numbers, which locks up the phone after a certain number of attempts.  But here they just plug in every cell phone and watch the movies on them - how?  And how many crappy home movies or personal pornos did they have to sift through to see the usable stuff?

NITPICK POINT #2: It was very unclear what got the video analysts to focus on the two terrorists, who they temporarily labelled "white hat" and "black hat".  Was "white hat" acting shifty?  At that point, they couldn't get a clear image of his face, so he couldn't have looked concerned or nervous in the crowd.  What behavior, exactly, brought this guy to the attention of the FBI to make him stand out from the thousands of other people in that crowd?

NITPICK POINT #3: So, the FBI takes over a giant warehouse and builds a mock-up of the Boston street so they can keep track of all the evidence.  And they mark off each storefront near the bombing site.  But why do they need to call in our hero amalgam cop to figure out the name of each store, and to remember which ones have security cameras that might have footage of the suspects?  Couldn't the FBI just look at a map, or check Google Earth, to see where the "Stah-bucks" was?  And couldn't they just check each camera (either in-person or remotely) down the block themselves?  Why did they need this guy to rack his brain so they could look at each camera in order?  Two minutes of research would have given them the exact same result, and this guy could have taken some well-deserved down time. 

Also starring John Goodman (last seen in "10 Cloverfield Lane"), J.K. Simmons (last seen in "The Rewrite"), Michelle Monaghan (last seen in "Eagle Eye"), Kevin Bacon (last seen in "Black Mass"), Vincent Curatola, Alex Wolff (last seen in "The Sitter"), Themo Melikidze, Michael Beach, James Colby (last seen in "Demolition"), Jimmy O. Yang (last seen in "The Internship"), Rachel Brosnahan, Christopher O'Shea, Melissa Benoist (last seen in "Whiplash"), Khandi Alexander, Jake Picking (last seen in "Dirty Grandpa"), Cliff Moylan (last seen in "Money Monster"), Lana Condor, with cameos from Peter Berg (also carrying over from "Deepwater Horizon"), David Ortiz.

RATING: 6 out of 10 "Call of Duty" missions

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