Patriots Day

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on January 25, 2017

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Dear Jake Waller
Script Processor

Dear Jake,

Script processor, eh? That’s a new one. Hollywood scripts always have readers, writers, and supervisors, but I’ve never seen someone credited with having to “process” it. Makes sense, I guess – the Boston Marathon bombing took place so recently that it’s hard to fathom that there’s been enough distance to fully understand and re-tell that story. Meaning all that responsibility – that need for clarity and conscience – fell on you, poor Jake. So maybe it’s to your credit that Patriots Day isn’t just another opportunistic cash-grab of a true-life tragedy.

Real-life, after all, has become the hot new I.P. for Hollywood adaptations (comic books are so two years ago). In the past few months alone, we’ve had Snowden, Sully and Deepwater Horizon recreating big media events from recent years. The latter may be the most relevant, having also been directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg. Though where Deepwater struggled to justify itself by the end, devolving into little more than flames and fury, Patriots Day benefits from clear protagonists, goals, and developments in the story. More importantly, it spends some cursory down time with a number of the victims and key players, fleshing them out before integrating them into the story. And sure, they’re all conveniently cultivating new romances mere hours before a national catastrophe, but I can live with those kinds of filmmaking contrivances. It helped me process the whole thing.

There was, however, an element to the film that I don’t think even you could have predicted. Or maybe you could, and you pushed for this reaction.

During an interrogation scene with the wife of one of the bombers, Patriots Day can’t hide its all-American erection over the Patriot Act’s power to deny a terrorism suspects their Miranda rights. The way this tactic is justified had the effect of riling up even my meek Canadian afternoon crowd. I could actually hear people cheering under their breath phrases like “that’s what you get!”. Hell, even I felt satisfaction from the power of the state regaining control over the unlawful renegades. It was one of those jingoistic payoffs that feels good in entertainment (like almost every episode of 24), but lacks all the sober realities of real life. Like those thoughtful elements that help us process heavy-handed government policies as opposed to letting fear guide our decision making.

But this is a film – not a law class. The only rule is to make the audience feel something, and hopefully provide a better understanding of the world along the way. And I can say, without hesitation, that Patriots Day had the effect of making those fateful days in Boston mean something more to me. Achieving that requires going beyond the obvious plot points on the page, by tapping into something deeper.

So, good processing (assuming you weren’t just an IT guy or glorified photocopier).



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