In all of the press coverage leading up to Wednesday night’s Boston premiere of Patriots Day, the refrain from executive producer and star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg has been that they had to get it “right.” At a Thursday morning press conference for the film at the Intercontinental Boston featuring Wahlberg, Berg, and nine others associated with the film, that same message echoed.
“That became our motto,” said producer Michael Radutzky. “We have to get it right, for the sake of Boston.”
One person on the panel, however, said that seeing the film fully cemented in her mind that Patriots Day would never feel right, at least to her.
“I think that’s what I realized last night, that this movie is never going to feel right to them,” said Marathon bombing survivor Jessica Downes, noting that she was speaking on behalf of all of the survivors. “It can feel OK, and it can feel respected, and you can feel proud and be happy that it was done, but getting it right is so hard, because what happened to us was anything but right.”
In one scene, the actors playing Downes and her husband, Patrick Downes, stand at the finish line, while the actor playing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev walks in front of them, dropping off his explosive-filled backpack. Jessica said that sharing the screen with the bombers—even fictionally—was a difficult part of the Patriots Day process.
“I thought I was going to have the hardest time with the graphic scenes of the bombing,” she said. “And actually what I heard was it was so hard to see the bombers on screen.”
Jessica said she believes that the filmmakers did their best, but that “getting it right” was an impossibility for many survivors.
“This was really traumatic. This permanently changed lives, permanently ended lives,” Jessica said. “And so ‘right’ isn’t something you can achieve with survivors, but ‘respect’ is. And I do think that the gentlemen sitting behind us ensured that that happened.”
Later in the press conference, Berg addressed the decision to include the backstories of the Tsarnaev brothers in the film. He said he found Dzhokhar and Tamerlan’s stories compelling given that “these were individuals you might see at Starbucks.” However, Berg also made clear that there was no attempt to glorify or rationalize their actions.
“We were very conscious of not wanting to portray them in any way to be righteous men,” Berg said. “We don’t consider their behavior to be righteous. We don’t consider them to be good Muslims. We don’t really consider them to be Muslims at all. … These were confused, narcissistic, hypocritical, psychopaths, in our view.”