"Patriot's Day" is an efficient little thriller that recreates the events of April 15, 2013, when the Tsarnaev brothers detonated two bombs during the Boston Marathon. Mark Wahlberg stars as a police officer, but there is really no main character in this movie. It is more of a docudrama, moving from event to event, from one person affected by the bomb to the next. We are introduced to, and spend a few minutes with each of the victims, police officers, FBI agents, and unidentified interrogators. We visit in the Tsarnaev home previous to the bombing. We watch as the governor ponders the decision to shut the city down. We watch police go from house to house in Watertown, seeking Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
It's all very suspenseful and interesting but the film made no lasting impact on me. "Patriot's Day" never takes any of the risks that might propel it into the territory of memorable art. It takes virtually no stand on the many questions this bombing prompts us to ask. The Tsarnaev family were immigrants. They applied for political asylum. They were, for all intents and purposes, Muslim refugees, though they were never given the "refugee" designation.
There is a debate going on around the world right now about what to do about Muslim refugees from war-torn regions, and whether or not taking in Muslim refugees is safe for the receiving country. "Patriot's Day" goes nowhere near this question.
There is also a debate about what to do about terrorists' family members. Noor Salman, the wife of the Orlando terrorist, was arrested on January 16, 2017. What about Katherine Russell, the widow of Tamerlane Tsarnaev? Before the bombing, Russell performed a google search of the rewards Islam offers to the wife of a dead Muslim terrorist. This is mentioned in the film. Russell is shown living in the same tiny apartment with the brothers, where they prepared the bomb. The film implies that she was aware of their plans. She is free and no charges have been brought against her.
The film depicts Russell being interrogated by a woman in a hijab. The suggestion is that America needs good Muslims to fight bad Muslims. In any case, the interrogator gets nothing out of Russell.
In addition to following police officers and other first responders, the film also follows the victims. The viewer is given a brief intro to young lovers whose legs must be amputated. Eight-year-old Catholic schoolboy Martin Richard was the youngest victim. The film does not show him alive. We see, rather, a cloth covering a very small body. We see the cloth rippling in the wind, and a police officer standing guard over the body till investigators can address the corpse without disturbing evidence. In fact the bomb tore Martin's little body apart. The damage was described at the trial. Martin Richard's beautiful face, in a photograph radiating young life, innocence and hope, is shown onscreen after the film concludes.