Patriots Day, the newest film from director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg, recreates the events of the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013. The movie makes main characters out of the first responders — some real, others fictional — who were on the scene of the bombing and who contributed in the following manhunt for the bombers, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. With a mix of characters based on real people and fictional characters created specifically for the film, just how accurate is Patriots Day?
It's tough to make a totally true historical feature no matter what the subject is, and this film is no different. Patriots Day was born from two screenplays, one focusing on the manhunt (Boston Strong) and one based on a 60 Minutes episode on the subject (Patriots Day). "Boston Strong was interesting but factually inaccurate, almost a work of fiction. Patriots Day was very, very accurate but didn't have the dramatic tension that I felt the movie needed," Berg explained in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. The finished Patriots Day script is somewhere in the middle, with a large amount of procedural accuracy tied together by a fictional Boston PD hero, Tommy Saunders (Wahlberg).
In an attempt to make Patriots Day as accurate as possible, filmmakers met with many witnesses and first responders. Police Commissioner Ed Davis and Watertwon Sgt. Jeff Pugliese, who worked on the manhunt, as well as Dun Meng, the man who was carjacked by Tamerlan Tsarnaev after the bombings, worked with the filmmakers behind the scenes and met with the actors who portray them. "They really did their homework," the real Davis said during an appearance on CBS This Morning, via Sentinel and Enterprise. Speaking about John Goodman, who plays him in the film, Davis praised the actor's portrayal as dead on. "Right down to the scarf I was wearing and the jacket I had on," he said. "He practiced my accent and sounded just like me."
Writer Mark Shanahan of The Boston Globe, however, questioned the necessity of creating Wahlberg's fictional cop character and the accuracy of the final shootout between the Tsarnaev brothers and the police. Others have taken issue with the treatment of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow, Katherine Russell. But of course, any film based on true events will never be 100 percent accurate, nor will it ever please anybody directly involved with those events. Patriots Day can feel true for some and not for others, and that's perfectly fine.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that a third script, Stronger, inspired Patriots Day.