I was nowhere near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, but those two bombs still altered my life. It was a dark day, and a difficult week that followed, for anyone with even the faintest connection to the city of Boston.
And now there’s a movie about it.
I talked a lot of shit about ‘Patriots Day’ before ever even seeing it. People asked me for my thoughts on it, being the resident Bay Stater in most of my social groups, and my answer has always been the same: It’s too soon. I don’t want to see this. It’s too soon. It’s too soon.
It’s been three years, nine months and one day since the bombing. That also makes it one year, eight months and a day since Dzokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death for all that he did.
That was the cause of my initial discomfort. This person — my junior by about a year and a half — is still alive, sitting in a prison cell, awaiting his appeal. This event isn’t history; this story is still going on.
But there’s a movie about it. A movie that I paid $16 ($21 if you count the bottle of water) to go see today, because it’s not fair to talk shit about someone you don’t even know.
In all honesty, the previews were the hardest part to get through, because they gave me time to think about what I was doing there, sitting alone in the back of that theater on a perfectly fine Monday afternoon. They gave me time to reconsider — which I did, heavily. If there had been even one more clip shown before the actual film, I probably would have left.
I sunk into a false sense of security at the first cheesy Boston accent I heard once the film started. The beginning of ‘Patriots Day’ could have been the beginning to any police or crime movie, and it even made me laugh once, but that flicker of joy faded almost immediately. The excessive attention to characters’ lower limbs (and that completely necessary scene of a pressure cooker bomb being so nonchalantly placed into a black backpack) very quickly and somewhat ostentatiously reminded us all of what this was really about.
The portrayal of the actual bombing and aftermath didn’t bother me, save for the severity of the gore (but the movie is rated R, after all, and human beings are sick). We all saw footage of those explosions and the aftermath from every angle over and over in the days and weeks that followed. I can still see it perfectly when I close my eyes. It was nothing I hadn’t seen before, and it’s something I will see again.
The scenes from the shootout in Watertown didn’t really faze me either since, just like with the bombing itself, I was up all night watching and listening to everything unfold as it happened (though I have an inkling that the action here was played up just a bit).
One thing I honestly appreciated was the inclusion of real security and TV footage from all of the events throughout the film — additions that not only helped the movie remain factual, but that also served as a constant reminder that this. really. happened.
Something that did get under my skin, however, was the depiction of Officer Sean Collier’s murder. Again, it’s rated R, some people have a sick desire to see these things, and had this been a fictional story it likely would have been fine — but Sean Collier was real, and he was damn near assassinated, and seeing him struggle to fight back against terrorists while being shot in the face and head half a dozen times was far more than I ever needed to see.
The same goes for the end of the Watertown shootout, when the younger Tsarnaev escaped from police and ran his older brother over in the process, killing him. The man was a terrorist, he was a monster, and I feel nothing but a white hot hatred for him — but watching a human body get dragged and seeing the life quite literally sputter out of him was borderline sickening.
Am I hypersensitive to all of this because of where I’m from? Obviously. This attack was one of the most consequential things to happen in my life. ‘Patriots Day,’ to its credit, made me feel emotions I haven’t felt since that week in 2013. Had it not been for Mark Wahlberg’s fake I-need-to-be-everywhere character thrown in there, this would have been a great documentary.
After the movie (and its tasteful tribute to the victims) ended, I sat there for a few minutes, trying to process exactly how I felt. All I came away with was the same phrase that has been ringing in my head for weeks.
It’s too soon for the dramatization. It’s too soon for fictional characters, too soon for awkward comic relief, too soon for the excessive gore.
It’s too soon. And for those of us connected to this, it might always be too soon.