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Movie Review: Patriots Day

Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg are onto a winning formula. Having worked together on Lone Survivor and followed up with Deepwater Horizon, the pairing found themselves working on Patriots Day. Each of these films has stars Mark Wahlberg, deals with an aspect of American history, is based on true stories and are deeply inspirational. In Patriots Day, Berg chronicles the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the manhunt that ensued from the perspective of police Sergeant Tommy Saunders, played by Wahlberg.

Much like Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day is more of a docudrama and is much broader, functioning like an ensemble drama with Wahlberg as curator. It's got a comprehensive feel to it, logging times and places in the buildup to the bombing, delivering the story in a chronological and straightforward manner. Berg covers the story from both sides of the law, introducing the bombers as people, refusing to resort to faceless one-dimensional villains. We follow the lives of several critical people in the hours that followed the bombing, getting a slice of Boston life and culture in the process.

Patriots Day has similarities with Zero Dark Thirty, chronicling and covering a terrorist manhunt with unflinching determination. The recreation of the Boston Marathon bombing is authentic and harrowing as real and recreated film footage merge almost seamlessly. This realism and urgency is carried into the rest of the film as the manhunt intensifies. Berg manages to recover many of the missing puzzle pieces to give a much fuller and clearer rendition of the events that transpired. We see the commitment on the part of the Boston Police Department, the lengths to which the FBI analysed the act of terrorism and witness some thrilling moments in the resolution to the manhunt.

Patriots Day

"We're takin' it to the streets..."

Mark Wahlberg continues to play the "everyman" as Police Sergeant, Tommy Saunders. He may not be quite as talented as Tom Hanks but is known for his generosity as an actor, allowing everyone to shine, sometimes to his own detriment. He is relatable, grounded enough to flatten his ego and accessible enough to make you feel that you could grab a beer with him. This makes him likeable, easy to rally behind and even easier to believe as "that guy". As curator of Patriots Day, he's always putting himself on the frontline and racing to keep up with the action.

He's supported by a stellar lineup including: Michelle Monaghan, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman and JK Simmons. While relegated to smaller supporting roles based on the sheer size of the ensemble, their experience and presence is vital. Monaghan plays Wahlberg's dependable and loving wife, Carol, Bacon leads the FBI investigation in a restrained performance as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers, Goodman gets in everyone's grill as Commissioner Ed Davis while JK Simmons brings experience and bravery as Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese. Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff also deserve a special mention as the prime suspects, adding a layer of complexity to their performances.

Patriots Day is a thrilling film but it's also heartfelt, serving as something of a tribute in much the same way as Sully did for New York servicemen following the Hudson River landing. However, this film isn't just about the rescuers but also about the way the city of Boston pull together to stay Boston Strong. Interviews with the victims show hope for the future as one diabolical act of terrorism serves to unify instead of divide. Bridging the reality of the tragic event, it's difficult not to be moved by the beauty of the humanity in the face of such hatred.

The bottom line: Stirring

Talking Movies with Spling - Manchester by the Sea, Passengers and The Light Between Oceans

Spling reviews Manchester by the Sea, Passengers and The Light Between Oceans as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

Spling's Galileo Pick of the Week: Scream

Spling's Pick of the Week - Scream at Fedisa Rooftop


While the iconic Scream mask has been ridiculed, it has earned its place in Hollywood history. The late Wes Craven was known for his genre-bending and innovation, trademarks which have been neatly encapsulated by Scream. Part tribute to horror films and part self-referential comedy, this slasher has entrenched itself in pop culture and Neve Campbell has forever been emblazoned on our collective imagination as Sidney Prescott.

Scary enough to give you chills and funny enough to lampoon the horror genre as we know it, this isn't any ordinary slasher, but a masterful film from the mind of a horror luminary. While dark and often amusing, we're constantly thrown off-balance by surprising thrills with some nail-biting and blood-soaked scenes. While a piece of '90s memorabilia, it resurrected the teen slasher genre in its time inspiring film franchises like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend.

This highly acclaimed horror thriller is showing under the stars at The Galileo Open Air Cinema.


Movie Review: Passengers

Passengers is a sci-fi romance thriller, directed by Morten Tyldum and starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. It's a sci-fi because the story takes place in outer space, dealing with a transporter by the name of 'Avalon', which holds over 5000 passengers on a 120 year voyage to 'Homestead II'. Their hibernation pods prevent them from ageing, allowing them to essentially travel into the future, foregoing friends and family on earth to start over on a new colony. The corporate colonisation of another inhabitable planet, the technology surrounding a mass relocation and the questions surrounding a "geographical suicide" give Passengers plenty of science-fiction fodder. Add a premature awakening for some of the passengers and you've essentially got Castaway in outer space.

Passengers is a romance because we are dealing with a story akin to a futuristic Adam & Eve on board the Titanic. Chris Pratt plays Jim, a likeable engineer, who discovers he is all alone on the 'Avalon' after a malfunction causes his pod to open prematurely. Jennifer Lawrence plays Aurora, an aspiring writer, who also finds herself awake with 90 years of space travel ahead of her. Devastated to learn that they may spend the rest of their days alone on a floating hotel, the two try to make the most of the situation. As their fates align, so do their hearts and instead of collapsing into a slump they try to enjoy their togetherness, deferring their troubles to an android barman played by Michael Sheen.

It's also a thriller as the romantic pairing start to realise how they came to know each other and that a much greater threat begins to make itself known. Just as they are coming to terms with their solitude and the fact that they may eke out the rest of their lives on a spaceship, things start to fall apart. Through darker themes and the manifestation of mounting troubles, the two discover they aren't as alone as they had previously imagined and band together to save the 'Avalon' and its precious cargo.

Passengers 2016

"So we're kinda like 2-in-1 now."

Instead of embracing these three genre elements simultaneously, Passengers transitions through each of them like phases of the day. The notion of being trapped in space, isolated from humanity and alone with your thoughts is much like Tom Hanks being stranded on an island. We saw Sandra Bullock facing her own mortality in Gravity and Passengers takes a page, using its futuristic setting to pick up where George Clooney left off. At the outset, it may seem like "Gravity for Two", but the focus is more on relationship than survival. Setting this relational dynamic against the backdrop of the "unsinkable" 'Avalon' makes it seem like a sci-fi version of Titanic. Adding a writer, a rambling hotel, cold exterior and an old world bar all point towards The Shining.

Passengers could have gone the Event Horizon route with nightmarish happenings or geared up towards Ex Machina with an introspective psychological thriller. However, this is not a niche film, but a commercial one. Morten Tyldum may be the director from the acclaimed The Imitation Game, but he is operating with two of the hottest properties in Hollywood, delivering on a lightweight script with a genre identity crisis. Instead of teasing out characters and themes, it seems content to simply poke around in the dark, fumbling its way from one room to another.

Luckily, they can rely on the charms and talents of their co-leads, who go a long way to redeeming this space melodrama of what-ifs. The sleek CGI and design architecture keep us visually stimulated as the handsome cast provide enough twinkle to keep us watching as many fanboys get a chance to play out that fantasy about confronting Jennifer Lawrence "as the last person on earth". Passengers is a mixed bag, but it's beautiful to look at and entertaining enough to get through. While it's better and less ambitious than Jupiter Ascending, it belongs in the same league of misfires, inspired by greater films but unable to seize its place among the stars.

The bottom line: Trashy

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