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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

On April 15th, 2013, everything seemed pretty good in Boston. It was time for another celebration of Patriots Day. Along with the typical traffic and crowds, as well as a typical spring Red Sox game, the local residents were thronging throughout the city to experience a little thing called the Boston Marathon.

Tens of thousands of amateur and professional runners from all over the world had once again gathered to brave the hilly Massachusetts terrain. Some 500,000 spectators filled the streets to cheer them on.

Officer Tommy Saunders wasn't all that happy about it all. He was still recuperating from a pretty serious knee injury. Having to hobble about and police the finish line of the marathon was going to be slightly torturous. But, hey, it was good to be up and around. The people were smiling, the sun was shining, the Sox were winning.

It was a pretty good day.

And then it wasn't.

The Boston Marathon's massive collection of people was also pinpointed as a perfect opportunity for two Chechen brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, to unleash their brand of radicalized hatred upon the unsuspecting city. They slipped into the crowd and planted two homemade pressure cooker bombs that exploded about 12 seconds apart, killing three and injuring some 264 others, causing the loss of blood and limbs.

Suddenly it was up to Tommy, his fellow Boston Police Department compatriots, city officials and federal authorities to do something: to help, to heal, to detect, to protect, to search. It was up to them all to pull together somehow and staunch the horrific bleeding of this no longer pretty good day in Boston.

And it was up to them to hunt down the perpetrators of this horrific act of domestic terrorism.

Positive Elements

This movie may be about men and women struggling through a terrible tragedy, but it's also a film that powerfully salutes the police and FBI officers who put everything on the line, at a moment's notice, to protect the public. Likewise, we also see families pulling together and embracing one another after unthinkable loss and suffering.

On top of that, the movie uses character dialogue, and words of some of the victims themselves, to encourage the rest of the nation. They uniformly state that public unity, love and the desire to do right are all powerful weapons against the destructive forces of evil. And indeed, we see all of those virtues prevail over the course of the story.

Spiritual Content

In a brief moment of repose, Tommy offers this spiritual insight: "When the devil hits you like that, there's only one thing you can hit him with: your love for each other."

FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers is repeatedly hesitant to pin the attack on radical Islamic terrorism—even though the evidence points in that direction—for fear of a public backlash against other Muslims.

Sexual Content

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two murder-minded brothers, asks his brother about Martin Luther King. Tamerlan responds, "He was not a Muslim, he was a fornicator." Dzhokhar replies, "I'm a fornicator."

We see a husband and wife embrace and kiss in bed: he's shirtless, while she wears panties and a tank top. Elsewhere, Tamerlan's wife kisses him.

Violent Content

The film intercuts actual film clips of the Boston terror event with cinematically dramatized footage. The result is a jarring, at times gruesome depiction of the attack. The camera observes a dismembered foot and ankle lying in a pool of gore; it closely examines a number of people writhing on the ground with gaping, gushing wounds; and it follows many blood-covered individuals as they flee in a panic. As Tommy scurries about trying to aid the wounded, he also discovers some who are dead and lying crumpled on the sidewalk. (There is an 8-year-old child among that number, but we only see a sheet-covered form.)

That grisly attention to realistically portraying the carnage here carries over into the emergency areas where the wounded are being treated and where wound-probing doctors make the call for several patients to have shattered limbs amputated. In one awful case, we hear the surgical saw slice in, but we're mercifully spared the accompanying images. We see many victims smeared in gore.

The Tsarnaev brothers kill a number of others during their flight from police. In one case, they approach an officer in his car, shoot him in the chest and face and proceed to riddle him with bullets when the dying man refuses to relinquish his firearm. When cornered by police, the Tsarnaevs exchange fire in a visceral gun battle, throwing out pipe bombs and other homemade explosives that demolish cars in erupting flame which sends officers flying. We see men shot and killed. One individual is tackled and pummeled and then run over by a car. Someone has his eyes gouged during a tussle.

Crude or Profane Language

About 150 f-words and 20 s-words join a handful of uses each of "h---," "a--" and "'d--n." God's and Jesus' names are abused repeatdly, including one pairing of "God" with "d--n" and one of Jesus with an f-word. Crude slang is used for the male anatomy.

Drug and Alcohol Content

One policemen smokes almost continually. We see Dzhokhar and several of his college buddies smoking too. Someone smokes hash from a bong. We're told that Dzhokhar was one of the main marijuana dealers of at his school. Characters elsewhere drink wine and beer.

Other Negative Elements

Several of Dzhokhar's schoolmates conceal evidence linking their radical friend to the murders. The Tsarnaevs kidnap a Chinese student and steal his car, and Dzhokhar makes fun of his accent.


Director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg have worked together now on three high-octane, real-world dramas involving deadly events and stalwart, brave heroes. Like 2013's Lone Survivor, Patriots Day has the same kind of pulse-pounding intensity and wrenching emotion at its core.

In addition to this film's depiction of courage amid sheer horror, Patriots Day also illustrates how deeply we long to see Islamic terror dealt with swiftly and justly when violent perpetrators such as the Tsarnaevs unleash it. We long for someone to speak plainly about the dire, evil nature of such radicals. Finally, we long to hear words of hope and pay tribute to heroes who put themselves on the line to defend our collective well-being.

And that's exactly what Patriots Day strives to give us.

That's not, however, all it gives. In order to realistically convey their vision of this tragedy, the filmmakers show us vivid, gaping wounds and dismembered limbs. And they immerse us in a Boston police force that's rampant with vulgarity.

That may be reality. But it still makes this film about national healing and endurance after a soul-shattering tragedy an aesthetically difficult one to endure.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

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Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range





Mark Wahlberg as Tommy Saunders; John Goodman as Commissioner Ed Davis; Michelle Monaghan as Carol Saunders; J.K. Simmons as Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese; Alex Wolff as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; Themo Melikidze as Tamerlan Tsarnaev; Kevin Bacon as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers; Jimmy O. Yang as Dun Meng


Peter Berg ( )





Record Label



In Theaters

January 13, 2017

On Video

March 28, 2017

Year Published



Bob Hoose

Content Caution

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