One of the most powerful films to screen in cinemas in 2017 is Patriot’s Day from director Peter Berg. Over the years Berg has established himself as a filmmaker who can capture realism in a way that very few filmmakers before him have done so. When his television show Friday Night Lights first aired some people thought it was a reality television show in the vein of The Hills or Laguna Beach, that was all down to how realistic the characters and their dialogue were.
In recent years Berg has also made the films Lone Survivor, about the courageous Marcus Luttrell and the bloody fight against the Taliban, and Deepwater Horizon, a dramatisation of the offshore drilling rig disaster in April 2010 that resulted in America’s worst ever oil spill. Now he turns his eyes to the events of the Boston bombing marathon with Patriot’s Day which stars Berg’s regular contributor Mark Wahlberg.
“I was actually in New York when the marathon bombings happened,” explains Berg. “I remember paying really close attention to it and being very aware and being very touched with the way the city clearly came together.and rallied together to capture these two criminals but to also support themselves so much after the bombings. I was very touched about how the community came together. Something that I was very interested in doing with this film was showing a very positive reaction that law enforcement had and show how helpful law enforcement was and how tireless these men were and how they were willing to put themselves in the line of fire to help the citizens of Boston. On the very edges of this tragedy, we saw some of the best that we can offer as citizens.”
“There were so many citizens,” he goes on. “Whether they were trauma surgeons, workers at the local hospitals, paramedics, firefighters, citizens like Dun Meng, the young Chinese immigrant who was carjacked by the brothers and who used every bit of wit and intelligence that he had to stay alive. He planned and executed a stunning escape, and that took an enormous amount of courage, but he was able to tell the Police where they were and probably more so than anybody else can be given credit for stopping these guys.”
The one thing that Berg says he realised during this film was ‘love wins’. “Love wins,” he says smiling. “When you talk to these survivors, many of which have had amputations or have suffered brain injuries or have been permanently scarred by this event and you ask what is the takeaway? Is it possible to have the ability to contextualise this horrific experience and almost all of them said, love. Love wins! This experience as horrible as it has been has made me appreciate so much my family, my friends, my community. We got blind-sighted, we got knocked down, we got beat up but we came back, we came back together with love.”
Aside from the victims of the horrific events, Berg said he also wanted to pay tribute to those whose work took them into the line of fire. “Characters like Ed Davis who is the Police Commissioner, the head of the FBI, the Mayor – it was a small group of men. People always say ‘thank God it didn’t happen on my watch’, well it happened on their watch. To look at how these men kind of realised ‘well there is nobody else but us, we’ve got to stop this, and we’ve got to fix this, and we need to figure out who did it’. I think watching individuals perform under that kind of duress is quite compelling and that is something we worked hard to capture.
Joining Berg here as not only as a producer on the film but also as his leading man is Mark Wahlberg who plays dogged Police Officer Tommy Saunders who makes it his mission to track down the wanted men in the aftermath of the bombings.
“This movie is not about our own individual experiences as actors,” says Wahlberg. “It is up to us to not only get it right but to honour the victims as well as all the people who worked so tirelessly to offer aid – the EMT’s, the first responders, the Police, the FBI and also going and tracking these guys down to make sure they didn’t cause any more harm. Pete (Berg) cares, and he wants to tell the stories of these heroes, and he is committed to getting it right.”
Like Berg Wahlberg is also full of praise for how Boston pulled together as a community in the wake of the bombings. “When these bombs went off people didn’t run away they ran towards the victims,” he says. “They ran to those that were injured, and that says a lot about the people of the city. Individuals from all walks of life just coming up and stepping up. I mean there were women going out there and using their purse straps as tourniquets, and you are talking about huge acts of heroism that were like awe-inspiring on every level. For somebody to go out there and commit to serving their community or their country that is a big deal, that is a really big deal, and that needs to be recognised. Those heroes and anybody else that would put themselves out of their way and at risk or in harm’s way to help strangers. This was a marathon, we’re talking about mothers, fathers, children to cheer on their loved ones. It is a joyous occasion, you know people don’t expect something like this to happen, and the fact that people all rallied around the way they did was really incredible. Good will always overcome evil. People will continue to do bad things, but they will never dictate how we live our lives. We need to be able to go to a marathon, to a baseball game and we need to be able to go to the movies, and we need to be able to live normal lives, you know. We need to all come together and then good will always overcome evil.
Patriots Day is in cinemas now