With Integrity, the Marathon Movie Could be Made Right

Watertown just recently ended a debate about whether the community wanted to hear simulated gunshots late at night. Shocker: the town voted no.

The decision comes as a response to CBS Films’ request to shoot its upcoming release, Patriot’s Day, at an intersection near Laurel and Dexter streets.

This is the same intersection where, almost three years ago, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot by police and run over by his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, after they detonated two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

While the town’s response seems natural, responses from residents were actually mixed. Some were concerned that recreating the moments would have disturbing effects by opening up old wounds while others felt the filming would be a cathartic process—a way to move forward.

For the film, the creative team being assembled packs some punch. Dorchester native Mark Wahlberg is set to play the lead of recently retired Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, whose firsthand account of the bombings and aftermath the film is based on.

Matt Charman, writer of Bridge of Spies which was nominated for the Academy Academy for Best Original Screenplay, has signed on to write the script, and J.K. Simmons has also confirmed that he’s practicing his Boston accent.

Patriot’s Day is currently in competition with another production documenting the infamous day. 20th Century Fox’s Boston Strong has begun the race to develop its own recreation.

Now that Watertown has been voted out as a potential shooting location, the producers are looking elsewhere for a place to record their version of events.

On the table right now is UMass Dartmouth, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev attended school and where he spent the days after the bombing until the FBI released photos of him.

 

By putting a considerable amount of effort into location selection, CBS Films seems to be making a serious effort to bring Patriot’s Day as close to the real thing as possible.

Wahlberg’s hometown pull will certainly help the film, and Ed Davis’ account will lend additional merit.

After the criticism that Selma received for its historical inaccuracies, hopefully this means a push for a closer attention to detail when it comes to presenting history in a feature-length film. And because two major production companies are telling their own versions, in some small way, I hope the films are very similar while maintaining their own individual artistic integrity and identity.

Telling the story of contemporary patriots—the police officers and the first responders to the bombing—requires a considerable amount of civic responsibility.

While other films can fully stretch themselves to their creative and experimental limits, movies made to purely tell history, not to re-write, embellish, or insert romantic plotlines (I’m looking at you, Titanic), need to do their job. Modern directors need not forget that when it comes to telling history, they are the knowledge workers and the producers of potential propaganda. The creative liberties they may take could affect things far beyond the walls of the theater.

As 20th Century Fox and CBS Films run forward with their plans, unless they’re telling different sides of the story, the differences in the films should be merely stylistic.

While wordings may vary, focuses will disagree, and cinematography will likely diverge, the plot should, at its core, reflect what actually took place—it should be consistent.

Perhaps in the competition that capitalism produces, these two films will both become exceptional cultural products, rather than another Hollywood artifice.

And hopefully the requests for artificial gunshots will one day go through so that Charman’s script can come to life in a place it has truly lived. And Wahlberg will do his city proud.

Featured Image by Graham Beck / Senior Staff