Patriot’s Day: a bizarre and suspect portrayal of the Boston bombings
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The actor Mark Wahlberg was supposed to be aboard one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11, but a scheduling change meant that he fortuitously ended up missing the doomed flight. Some years later, in an interview with Men’s Journal, he mused on what might have transpired, had he actually taken the flight:
If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn’t have went down like it did. There would have been a lot of blood in that first-class cabin and then me saying, ‘OK, we’re going to land somewhere safely, don’t worry.’The quote goes some way towards explaining Wahlberg’s strangely self-aggrandising role in his new movie, Patriot’s Day. The film is based on the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, in which the Tsarnaev brothers detonated pressure cooker bombs close to the finish line, killing three, and injuring hundreds more. The film, directed by long-time Wahlberg collaborator, Peter Berg, professes to be a painstaking reconstruction of the fateful day’s events and the city-wide manhunt that followed in the four days afterwards. Berg is clearly intimately familiar with the documentary evidence and source material, and is keen to impart his diligent research to the audience. Characters, locations, and events, for the most part, are depicted with impeccable detail. Perhaps most memorably, the film eerily intersperses actual CCTV footage of the bombers into key scenes, blurring the lines with reality.
Who’s Wahlberg?But for a movie that has taken such great pains to be authentic, and exhaustively consulted victims, law enforcement professionals, witnesses and investigators, Wahlberg’s casting defies reason. Sgt Tommy Saunders, played by Walhberg, does not exist. Nevertheless, Wahlberg’s fictional composite character becomes the lynch-pin for the entire film. He is everywhere. At every key juncture of the film, Saunders miraculously appears. He’s at the finishing line when the bombs go off. He helps the victims and directs the first responders. He maps out Boston for the FBI. He instigates the witness interviews. He responds to the Tsarnaev brothers’ carjacking victim at the gas station. He’s involved in the Watertown gun battle. And, finally, he has his gun squarely aimed at the younger Tsarnaev, as he emerges from hiding under the boat. If this film is a testament to the bravery of Bostonians, as it claims to be, then why the need for a make-believe hero to take so much of the credit? It is difficult not to see this as a vanity project for Wahlberg. This is particularly troubling when key heroic figures from the actual events have been completely neglected, such as Officer Dennis “DJ” Simmonds. Injured by a hand grenade during the waterfront shootout, he eventually succumbed to his injuries almost a year later. He is neither portrayed, nor even mentioned in the film.
The milk incident
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What I saw today? Good versus evil, love versus hate. There’s only one weapon you have to fight back with, it’s love. You wrap your arms around each other, I don’t think there’s a way they could ever win.Perhaps I am being too harsh. Perhaps that is the point of making these sorts of films. Akil N Awan, Associate Professor in Modern History, Political Violence and Terrorism, Royal Holloway This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.