PATRIOTS DAY Isn’t So Heroic For Boston

Bostonians unleash fury on the new Peter Berg film.

It’s only been three-and-a-half years since two brothers turned Boston’s Boylston Street into a war zone during the city’s annual marathon. Having lived in Massachusetts for half of my life — and as a resident of Boston during the Marathon Day bombing — I can attest that the film Patriots Day is a sore subject here.

During the filming of Patriots Day, Berg was quoted in IndieWire: “This film, for me, was by far the most intense experience of my career. To go into an environment like [Boston] three years after such a horrific act of terrorism and meet people who are still reeling from those emotional scars and still, in many cases, deeply in the grief process, was humbling and very inspiring.”

Well, yeah.

The wounds are still open for a huge amount of people here. And while there isn’t an etiquette guide on when one is allowed to adapt a tragic event, there are usually a few decades between the actual occurrence and the screen adaptation — at least before what happened on 9/11 and the subsequent dramatizations. With that horrific event, as with the Marathon bombings depicted in Patriots Day, people are still quite traumatized. Boston is a small city, and many of us think about the bombing daily — especially those who were there and saw the unthinkable happen — to say nothing of those who lost loved ones or body parts that day.

As for myself, I was out and about the city on April 15, 2013. My sister-in-law saw some horrific things; her office was located nearly directly above the Boston Marathon finish line. I almost went to her company’s party, just as I had the year before. Cell phone service in the area was virtually non-existent for hours as the networks were flooded with people trying to reach each other. One of their stylists I frequented at the time was maimed for life that day. The family whose little boy who died lives down the street from friends of mine. And so on and so on. Sadly, most people here have stories like these.

I’m trying to think of another adaptation of current events that was released so (relatively) close after said event, and I can’t. Stronger, a second adaptation starring Jake Gyllenhaal as survivor Jeff Bauman, was also filmed here this year, and is currently slated for release sometime in 2017. The buzz around town is that Stronger is far less bombastic, more thoughtful take on what happened.

Infamous Dorchester-raised actor Wahlberg was quoted in The Daily Beast on Patriots Day: “If they’re going to make it, I want to make sure they do it right. Everybody who’s from Boston knows somebody who was directly affected by it. Having those conversations, especially with victims and people who were directly affected by this, they were very clear on what they wanted. And we wanted to honor and respect that.”

Several Boston-area residents came forward on the topic of Patriots Day and its impeding release on the condition on anonymity. Normally, I wouldn’t list a barrage of quotes in an article, but these voices deserve to be heard. What you’ll read below are the unfiltered responses of the people who live here. Some were on the scene when it all went down; others were affected in less direct ways. In any case, the responses are damning.

Back when auditions were announced for background performers: “There is no excuse for that movie to be made, and no reason to further celebritize the murderers depicted in it. I'm asking you to consider not being part of it and not to support the traumatically tone-deaf production that made an attempt to film at actual neighborhood sites where people are still affected by it (ultimately not allowed thankfully).”

“I was living in Watertown when it happened. I was a few blocks away from the shoot out on that Thursday. I first thought it was fireworks. I was in lock down the whole day Friday. A ten-person SWAT team came to my house and searched the small yard in the front and back. And I heard the other shoot out when they found him in the boat. I don't mind movies this soon; what I do mind is who produces and directs it. I think Marky Mark is a poor choice because I feel it will turn into an overly sentimental ‘Boston Strong’ jerk-off festival with empty photo ops of the victims and empty praise for the law enforcement who responded.”

“I was working at the Pru[dential Center]. This movie is revolting. Without resident participation, movies like this are exploitive tragedy porn. Even if every penny was donated to survivors, and PTSD resources [donated] for first responders and bystanders… I still would take issue.”

“While we were sheltering in place in Cambridge, we had a friend who lost his leg, and was taken to a different hospital than his child whose bloody screaming face was on the cover of a national news magazine. He was terrified the reason they wouldn't let him see his boy was because his child was dead. I wouldn't watch Marky Mark’s rah rah ‘Murica recreation of an event he wasn't even here for if he brought the DVD to my house himself. Fuck that guy.”

“No desire to see this opportunistic dreck.”

“This feels exploitive.”

“I was living in Watertown on the street where bomber #2 crashed the car after fleeing the shootout where his brother was shot and killed. The whole thing was just like everyone else has said, surreal and like a movie. A tank drove up my street early Friday morning, maybe 1am. A little later my roommates and I watched a team break into a second floor apartment across the street in search of bomber #2. They cleared the room in seconds! It was amazing to see something like first-hand, although no one really should have to… A re-telling of the events in documentary format isn't in poor taste, but I feel that a dramatization of the events is both in poor taste and unnecessary.”

“I remember my dad asking me about it when he visited Boston, less than a year later. And when I said I didn't want to talk about it he said something like ‘Yeah, it was awhile ago,’ or ‘You must be over it’ — something like that. And I just wanted to cry. No one gets it. People make fun of Boston and say it was wrong for us to shut the city down to find him. And if you were here or are from here, that's fine, that's your opinion. But if not, then fuck you. And this movie... it's going to try to explain the unexplainable in one two-hour block. You can't. I worry that people like my dad, people who want to know but don't want to bother trying to understand, will get the gist of it and feel like they are entitled to their opinions now, because they've seen the movie. I don't want to talk about it with people who weren't here. You can't know. And I would have rather they left the brothers out entirely than try to sympathize or understand them. They aren't important. The victims and the survivors and the responders are important.”

“I grew up in Watertown and lived in Brighton at the time, inside the lockdown. Old friends who still lived in Watertown posted on Facebook about shootouts outside their houses and bullets going through their walls, and about the FBI and swat teams combing through their houses. It was surreal to see all this go down in a town that — up until that point — was most known among my generation for spectacular hummus. I had a really hard time watching the trailer, and I'm not going to see this. If it helps someone else heal, then that's fine. I know friends from Watertown who are going to see it for that reason. But I don't want to relive that again. I'm a lifelong horror fan, but this is too much. Some horrors should be left off of the screen.”

“If they wanted me to care at all about this film, then they all should do the work for scale and donate 100% of the profits to the victims of the tragedy and the city. We made art in light of this tragedy, and we donated it to the One Fund. But we made art, and we gave 100% of what we got because we are actually from here and actually give a shit about this community.”

“There's no way I'll see this. When I heard they were discussing filming some of it in the neighborhoods where the shootouts took place, I was horrified for the citizens who lived through it. Even though the filmmakers backed off that plan, it's too soon and this is the wrong group of people to be telling this story.”

“Time flies so fast that 3.5 years after the bombing, it truly feels like only a year has passed. Out of respect for people involved — no matter how accurate the plot is and how kind and wonderful the heroes and victims are portrayed — a film like this shouldn't be made until the events actually feel ‘historic.’ I’m thinking more like at least 20 years later. I was pretty close to where the first bomb went off and I still run through the situation in my head almost on a daily basis. I'm also always thinking about those who were injured or killed. I'm a little hesitant to watch the film because I feel like I’d be mentally downplaying what occurred (in some weird way) and supporting a group that’s going to be making money off of other people's real life stories. I get it though… the events that occurred that week were as wild as a made-up movie plot and Hollywood wanted to go for it.”

“Purely a trite, soft-boiled attempt to cash in on not only the marathon, but to capitalize on the whole Boston Strong brand — in which itself was a grossly, inept way to deal with such events. A shameless retread into territory of which the quality is nil.”

“This movie strikes me as a gross and opportunistic cash-grab.”