Patriots Day’ struggles to bring a true story to life

Mark Wahlberg is Boston police officer Tommy Saunders.

Two and a half stars

Patriots Day Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, Michelle Monaghan. Directed by Peter Berg. Rated R. Opens Friday citywide.

For Patriots Day, their third film celebrating Real American Heroes (following Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon), director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg have done away with the “real” part, inventing a sort of uber-American to place in the middle of a true-life story of heroism. Wahlberg’s Boston police officer Tommy Saunders is like the Forrest Gump of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing: He’s there at the marathon finish line when the bombs go off, getting people to safety; he’s the first to interview a driver who was carjacked by the fleeing bombers; he’s part of the intense shootout that kills bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev; and he’s the first to discover the hiding place of Tsarnaev’s brother and fellow bomber Dzhokhar, leading to Dzhokhar’s capture. He even gives a rousing, emotional speech.

Wahlberg plays Tommy with his typical working-class stoicism, but he’s never much of a character, and the subplots about bombing victims are rushed and often sappy. Berg stages the bombing and shootout sequences with propulsive, visceral intensity, and the supporting cast (including John Goodman, Kevin Bacon and J.K. Simmons) is solid, but the movie is so self-congratulatory (it ends with a 10-minute series of uplifting interviews with the real subjects) that it becomes more about its own heroism than the people who lived through the harrowing events.

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