Follow TV Tropes


Film / Patriots Day

Go To
They messed with the wrong city...

"This is our fucking city, and ain't nobody going to dictate our freedom."
David Ortiz in his pre-game gratitude speech for defeating the Tsarnaevs, April 20, 2013

Patriots Day is a 2016 True Crime film directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg, J. K. Simmons, John Goodman, Michelle Monaghan and Kevin Bacon.

It dramatizes the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15, 2013 and the subsequent week-long relentless manhunt for the perpetrators.

Patriots Day contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Agony of the Feet: The vast majority of injuries sustained are to the legs, due to the bombs being placed at foot level. Truth in Television.
  • The Alleged Car: One of the Watertown police cars has a window that only goes down when the right signal is used.
  • Arc Words:
    • Ed Davis shouts "This is my fucking city!" during the investigation which becomes "This is our fucking city" in David Ortiz's speech at the April 20 game.
    • After convening at the Black Falcon warehouse on April 15, Tommy says under his breath "Let's show these cocksuckers they messed with the wrong fucking city," which was included on the black Boston Strong T-shirts worn by survivors featured in a photo at the end of the movie. Dennis Lehane had it texted to him by at least two friends in the aftermath.
      Two different friends texted me the identical message yesterday: They messed with the wrong city. This wasn’t a macho sentiment. It wasn’t "Bring it on" or a similarly insipid bit of posturing. The point wasn’t how we were going to mass in the coffee shops of the South End to figure out how to retaliate. Law enforcement will take care of that, thank you. No, what a Bostonian means when he or she says “They messed with the wrong city” is “You don’t think this changes anything, do you?” Trust me, we won’t be giving up any civil liberties to keep ourselves safe because of this. We won’t cancel next year’s marathon. We won’t drive to New Hampshire and stockpile weapons. When the authorities find the weak and terminally maladjusted culprit or culprits, we’ll roll our eyes at whatever backward ideology they embrace and move on with our lives.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Dun Meng was held hostage by the Tsarnaev brothers for roughly 90 minutes. The movie makes it seem very brief, even though he tells Tommy, "They drove me around for, like, an hour."
    • Sean Collier's relationship with an MIT graduate student did not happen in real life. It was created for the film as a simplified way to depict the good relationship he had with the student body as a whole.
  • As Himself: Boston Red Sox team member David Ortiz.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: The sheer viciousness of the manhunt for the Tsarnaevs in complete contradiction to Massachusetts' reputation for liberalism, with a population normally against the death penalty more than willing to make an exception for the Tsarnaevs, to the point where 2,500 different officers from over 110 different police agencies participated in the search for Dzhokhar on April 19.
  • Based on a True Story: A dramatization of the Boston Marathon Bombings of 2013, and the following manhunt for the bombers. The film was rather very accurate with regards to how the events unfolded. The only prominent exceptions are that Tommy and Carol Saunders are fictional characters, composites created to both simplify the film and also embody the viewpoint of ordinary law enforcement, and the addition of a tragic romance for murdered cop Sean Collier to make the audience empathize with him even more.
  • Big Brother Bully: Tamerlan frequently criticizes Dzhokhar and orders him around, even threatening to kill him at one point. The only time we see him offering him encouragement is during the shootout when he urges him to escape to go to New York to set more bombs.
  • Boom, Headshot!: More like headshots. Tamerlan shoots Officer Sean Collier multiple times in the head. What makes it even more gruesome is that the first shot doesn't kill him, as the bullet goes through his left cheekbone and out the other.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": The crook Tommy interrogates the night before insists on calling a clothes iron a "smoothie" because it's used to smooth clothing.
  • Chekhov's Gag: During the Watertown shootout, with constant gunfire and bombs going off in-between, a civilian tosses a cop a sledgehammer of all things, telling him to "give 'em hell" with it. But when one of the brothers runs out of ammo and physically attacks another cop, the first cop takes the sledgehammer and does give him hell with it.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Dun Meng. He gets serendipitously kidnapped by the Tsarnaev brothers and when he escapes, he gives Boston PD his GPS tracking number, leading up to the Watertown shootout and the Tsarnaevs' downfall.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Pretty much every character, but understandable given the circumstances.
  • Composite Character: The filmmakers chose to make Tommy a good-hearted composition of cops acting during the attack rather than portray one real cop.
  • Cop Killer: The bombers shoot an officer to death while on the run.
  • Da Chief:
    • Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers of the FBI's Boston field office.
    • Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis and/or Boston Police Superintendent William Evans depending on how you view the Boston Police command structure.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Zig-zagged. The film chooses to not even show the victims who died in the bombings out of respect, instead choosing to focus on developing true survivors. However, the film does spend time showing Officer Sean Collier in the days up to his murder by the terrorists. The real victims' photos are also shown when the film ends, both the dead and the living.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Up close, the poster is a collection of shoelaces, but pull back and it's a shredded American flag. It also serves as a rather gruesome metaphor for the leg injuries sustained by the victims.
  • Doomed New Clothes: Dun Meng is introduced showing off his new black Mercedes-Benz SUV to his parents back in China. It gets riddled with bullets during the Watertown shootout.
  • Double-Meaning Title: This refers to the Massachusetts state holiday when the Boston Marathon is always held, which also commemorates the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord which kicked off The American Revolution and therefore is another fight against repression by Massachusetts residents.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: From Watertown Police Sgt. John MacLellan during the shootout: "WELCOME TO WATERTOWN, MOTHERFUCKER!"
  • Foreshadowing: The Anvilicious close-ups on Jessica's and Patrick's legs while in bed on April 15.
  • For Want Of A Nail:
    • Had Meng not stopped to text with a friend—as happened in Real Life—he would not have been taken hostage. He was able to escape and provide the police with enough information (including the GPS tracking number of the car they stole) to locate the terrorists before they could attempt another bombing at New York's Times Square.
    • On a positive note, had Meng's gas tank not been empty, the brothers wouldn't have stopped to buy gas, enabling him to escape and in all likelihood, save his life.
  • Friendly Fire: The truck Tommy uses to go after Dzhokhar after the Watertown shooting gets shot at by other officers because they only heard on the radio that the suspect was getting away in a black truck. In a case of Truth in Television, friendly fire is suspected to have happened in the real Watertown shootout, possibly even causing the serious injury of one officer.
  • Ghost City: Overhead shots make Boston look like this on April 19, due to the governor ordering businesses closed the having people stay inside to help protect them while police track down the suspects.
  • Glasses Pull: Dun Meng does this as he's gathering the nerve to make his escape.
  • Historical Domain Character: Pretty much every key player in the Boston city and Massachusetts state governments is in the film. So are some notable victims and the Tsarnaevs themselves.
  • Hollywood History: This partly applies given the use of Composite Characters as well as giving Sean Collier a fictional girlfriend and having Jeff Bauman, the guy who actually identified Tamerlan, Adapted Out due to him getting his own movie deal for his memoir Stronger.
  • Hostage Situation: The Tsarnaev brothers carjack Dun Meng when they're in need of a vehicle and money to get to New York and carry out more attacks.
  • Humans Are Good: The main idea of this movie is to show that in the moment of a tragic event, there are many people who are willing to help in any way they can.
  • I Have a Family: Dun Meng tries to invoke this with the Tsarnaev brothers when they take him prisoner. They snap at him to "Shut the fuck up."
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: During the Watertown shootout, despite Tamerlan having a Ruger P95 pistol with several magazines with 10 rounds each, he manages not to hit a single cop even Watertown PD Sergeant Pugliese at close distance after they empty an entire clip at each other.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: While clearing out a pub during the immediate aftermath of the bombing, Tommy grabs a bottle of Jameson and takes a quick swig.
  • Incriminating Indifference: While reviewing footage of the streets near the bombing site, an FBI agent notices that one man is the only one who looks away when the bomb goes off, whereas everyone else naturally looks towards the sound. Indeed, the man is one of the Tsarnaev brothers.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The bombers claim that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were secretly orchestrated by the American government to make Muslims look bad. But at the same time, they admit to doing the Boston Bombings and to justifying it based on their particular Islamic extremist beliefs. As in Real Life, the militants are as petty and incoherent as they are cruel.
    • Tamerlan blaming Dzhokhar (who was inside the gas station convenience store and completely out of view) for distracting him which allowed Dun Meng to escape.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Shades of this pop up initially between the FBI and Boston Police, but it quickly disappears over the course of the manhunt given the gravity of the situation (to the point of making this an Inverted Trope).
  • Irony:
    • For all of their attempts to evade and fight back against the police, the brothers wind up being their own worst enemy in the most literal sense: the older, more fanatical bomber is run over and even ''dragged'' by his younger, panicky accomplice. Additionally counts as Karmic Death.
    • After Dun Meng escapes and one brother screams to the other that they have to get out of there, the brother who is in the store starts to run, but turns back to drop the junk food he was going to buy. These two have committed terrorism, murder, and kidnapping... but apparently draw the line at shoplifting (of course, this might be a rare moment of clarity from him, realizing that if he stole those things the police would be called, putting them on the hunt for the brothers-this happened anyway though, of course).
    • A friend of Dun Meng texts him to warn him to get home because it's dangerous to be out. He pulls over to respond-and is carjacked.
  • Made of Iron: Officer Joseph Reynolds, one of the policemen involved in the Watertown shootout. Between getting his face cut up by glass shards when the bullets start flying and then repeatedly knocked around by pipe bombs when they explode in close proximity, he refuses to stay down and keeps getting back up to return fire again and again.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Happens after Boston MTA Officer Donohue is wounded by friendly fire that severs his femoral artery in his leg. Every cop, regardless of their level in law enforcement, city, county, state, or federal, rush to his aid to keep him from bleeding out.
  • Miranda Rights: Averted as in real life. Katherine Russell Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were questioned without being read their rights under the "public safety exemption" to Miranda. When Katherine demands that she be given a lawyer and has rights, the interrogators tell her she's "ain't got shit."
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Meng pulling over to answer a friend's text (presumably to avoid being ticketed or getting into an accident) results in him being taken hostage and his car being destroyed in a shootout.
  • Oh, Crap!: During the Watertown shootout, Dzhokhar tosses a bomb near Officer Joey Reynolds who then has this reaction.
  • Precision F-Strike: Dun Meng yells "FUCK YOU!" at Tamerlan as he makes his escape from the car. Afterwards, when he tells Tommy that his kidnappers were the Marathon bombers and how the police can track the GPS in his car, Tommy praises him for his actions and tells him he's a brave guy. Dun Meng ignores this and just tells him to "catch those motherfuckers".
  • Real-Person Epilogue: The film ends with statements from the real people involved alongside pictures and video of the attack and Boston's recovery from it. It closes on pictures of those that died during the events.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Even though a good deal of the film is centered about Wahlberg's fictional beat cop, the emotional but logical debates among various higher-ups play such a role that this might as well be called Reasonable Authority Figure: The Movie.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Zig-zagged. Subtitles are not provided for the handful of moments that the Tsarnaevs speak in their native language. When it comes to Dun Meng, however, his conversations with his parents and a client in Chinese have subtitles.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic:
    • As difficult as it is to believe, Dun Meng really did have his GPS tracking number memorized, which you would never have been able to get away with if this was a fictional story.
    • Dzhokhar asking Meng if his car came with an aux cord while carjacking him and attempting to transport a bomb to New York City feels almost too flippant to be real, but it did happen.
  • Real-Person Cameo:
    • David Henneberry, the resident of Watertown who found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hiding in his boat, as a random Watertown resident that Tommy questions during the door-to-door search of April 19.
    • Dun Meng as a patron of the pizza parlor where his actor Jimmy O. Yang is on his date.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: The movie starts out with Wahlberg's character getting put on marathon duty as punishment for a vaguely described incident pre-film.
  • Run or Die: When Dun Meng is a prisoner of the Tsarnaevs, he knows they are bound to kill him. So when an opportunity to escape appears at a gas station, Meng makes his move and sprints to another one as fast as he can at the risk of those terrorists shooting him in the back. Meng makes it and calls the police to begin the Tsarnaevs' downfall.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The actual homes of Sean Collier and Jeff Pugliese were used as filming locations.
    • The scene where the bombers try to take Sean Collier's sidearm. They struggle with it because he is wearing a retention holster, a type of holster that will only release the weapon inside if you press a button on the holster. The bombers likely didn't know this and thus gave up after being unable to access it.
    • Tommy gives a running list of the various Boylston Street businesses and restaurants whose security cameras could've caught the Tsarnaevs, going from Crate And Barrel to Abe & Louie's to Back Bay Social Club, then a brief detour in the opposite direction to Solas before finally getting them on camera at Whiskey's Steakhouse.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Its theme of Humans Are Good and that many were willing to work hard and help anyway they can to support those caused by a real life tragedy makes this movie quite idealistic.
  • Tracking Device: When Dun Meng escapes the Tsarnev brothers, he is able to provide the GPS tracking number for his vehicle. Thus, the Boston police is able to quickly track down the terrorists before they leave the city for New York.
  • Wham Shot: The Massachusetts State Police trooper standing over the covered corpse of eight-year-old victim Martin Richard for hours because moving him will disturb the crime scene and potentially obscure valuable evidence, and then saluting as he's being loaded into an ambulance.
    • Tommy tending to an injured woman that asks him "What is that?!" pointing at a severed leg on the ground.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The movie's epilogue depicts the lives of and commentary from nearly all the participants featured, even the surviving terrorist.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Despite clearly seeing a stroller, one of the brothers puts a bomb just a few feet away. Indeed, a little boy (not the one in the stroller) was one of the fatalities.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: The police officers at the Watertown shootout. They went from the usual civilian "three shots at three yards in three seconds" into something out of Black Hawk Down, with terrorists turning a street into a smoking waste of bombed out police cars.
    • The surrealness meter goes even higher when a civilian runs out, yells encouragement, and throws a sledgehammer to one of the officers.