Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg’s latest collaboration deals with the terrorist bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.

Share story

April 15, 2013 … Is it too soon for a movie about the terrorist bombing that took place on that date during the Boston Marathon? Should there even be a narrative drama about it? Isn’t it, inevitably, a kind of horror film? Complete with distractingly grisly graphic makeup and special effects?

Too soon? The question lingers, though in a more positive way than you might imagine. For all its rough edges and gruesome touches, “Patriots Day’’ is a heartfelt and ambitious attempt to turn mayhem into something that’s emotionally valid.

Movie Review ★★★  

‘Patriots Day,’ with Mark Wahlberg, J.K. Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon. Directed by Peter Berg, from a screenplay by Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer. 133 minutes. Rated R for violence, realistically graphic injury images, language throughout and some drug use. Several theaters.

It’s the latest collaboration between director Peter Berg and his star, Mark Wahlberg, who grew up in Boston and felt an impulse to tell the story his way. Like their earlier films, “Lone Survivor” (2013) and “Deepwater Horizon” (2016), it gives a mostly factual account, with a few fictional touches.

Wahlberg plays a composite character, Sgt. Tommy Saunders, who represents several Boston policemen who were involved in tracking down the terrorists. Other key roles are filled by Kevin Bacon (as an FBI special agent), John Goodman (as the police commissioner), “Whiplash” Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons (as police chief in the town where the bombers were captured) and Michelle Monaghan (as Saunders’ wife).

That’s quite an ensemble, yet most of the cast members shine even if they’re on-screen for only a few minutes. Berg has a knack for mixing bluster (Goodman) with subtler comic relief (Bacon), and he stages the action scenes with genuine suspense and fire power.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross bring a welcome nervous energy to their music soundtrack, which has a live-wire quality. There’s nothing lazy about this score — or the restless cinematography (by Tobias A. Schliessler) and editing (Gabriel Fleming and Colby Parker Jr.) that support it.

Several years ago, Wahlberg earned an Oscar nomination for playing a vivid supporting role in Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed.” This time he’s more than supporting. He’s the beating heart of a city he loves and feels compelled to protect from unspeakable tragedy. And it’s more than personal.