Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Mark Wahlberg

Patriots Day – Profiles in Courage


What should have been a day of celebration turned into a day of tragedy when two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, planted bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Now, nearly four years after that attack, Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg produce a film that recreates, often in grisly detail, the aftermath of the explosion and how law enforcement, with the help of local citizens, come together to identify the killers.

Patriots Day follows a pattern that Berg/Wahlberg created for their previous film, Deepwater Horizon, also based on real events, in that case the explosion of a drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana that remains the largest ecological disaster in U.S. history. (Read the review.) With each film, we are pulled in as we learn about the people involved – good guys and bad guys – who will play a role as the catastrophe unfolds. Each time, we brace ourselves, knowing all too well what’s to follow.

With Deepwater Horizon, Wahlberg played a real life character, Mike Williams, an electronics technician who worked on the rig. In Patriots Day, he plays the fictional Tommy Saunders, a Boston police sergeant who because of transgressions that are not explained (although the way he barrels into any situation portrays him as a management nightmare), he is assigned marathon duty as punishment. He complains to his wife, Carol (Michelle Monaghan), about wearing the day-glo vest that makes him look like a clown. Saunders prefers to be at the center of the action and this inconvenient assignment will do just that – placing him near the finish line when the bombs go off.

While Saunders is perhaps a composite of the many police officers who served Boston at that time, the film’s other characters are based on real life figures. Christopher O’Shea and Rachel Brosnahan play a married couple, Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, who come to watch the marathon. During a bedroom scene in their apartment, the camera zeroes in on their legs, a foreshadowing of the devastating injuries they will suffer because of the blast.


Michelle Monaghan

Jake Picking plays the enthusiastic and fresh-faced MIT campus police officer, Sean Collier, thrilled when an MIT grad student agrees to go to a concert with him. Collier, refusing to give up his weapon, will be shot in his patrol car by Tamerlan.

During rescue operations, Steve Woolfenden (Dustin Tucker) is separated from his three year-old son, Leo (an adorable Lucas Thor Kelley). Father and son are later reunited at the hospital.

Our first glimpse into the Tsarnaev home shows Tamerlan and Dzhokhar relaxing in the living room watching TV, while Tamerlan’s wife, Katherine Russell (Melissa Benoist, in a chilling departure from her Supergirl persona), takes care of their little girl. Any semblance of normalcy, however, is dashed when the camera zooms in on Tamerlan packing a pressure cooker with metal parts.

Tamerlan is portrayed as the brains behind the operation, frequently bullying his brother into following his lead. The pair, Tamerlan wearing a black hat, Dzhokhar a white one, wind their way through the marathon crowds, finally depositing their lethal packages at two points and then leaving. Later, they watch coverage of the explosions from home, pleased with the carnage they have caused.

Video of the actual explosions played again and again on TV. In the film, however, Berg/Wahlberg go further, showing the aftermath, the injured runners and spectators, the blood-soaked clothing and pavement, even a sneaker-shod foot off to the side. The body of the youngest victim, eight year-old Martin Richard, is covered in a tarp, left for hours after the area has been cleared until crime scene specialists can gather forensic evidence from his body. Guarding the body is a lone cop, tears streaming down his face when the ambulance finally departs.

What the public didn’t see after the bombings was the incredible response by law enforcement. Shortly after the event, the marathon area was flooded with FBI agents, police officers, and local and state government officials, including Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), and FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) who declares the bombing a terrorist event after examining bomb fragments. Taking over the investigation, he asks for a control center which is set up in the Black Falcon terminal on the South Boston waterfront. In that space, the marathon finish line area is meticulously recreated, with evidence collected after the bombing placed where it was found. Meanwhile, tech experts scroll through video of the marathon crowds and soon are able to isolate the Tsarnaev brothers as suspects. Wahlberg’s Saunders, who knows Boston’s streets, is called in to figure out which cameras should be checked for images of the bombers. Although DesLauriers is reluctant to release the brothers’ photos before they are confirmed as the bombers, he’s forced to do so when someone leaks the information to FOX-TV. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar are watching in their living room when they see themselves on TV. They know they have to flee if they are going to get to their next target, New York.


Kevin Bacon, Mark Wahlberg, and John Goodman

They carjack a Mercedes SUV belonging to Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang from HBO’s Silicon Valley), who manages to escape and alert the authorities. Cornered in Waterford, the duo exchange gunfire with a growing throng of police officers, including Waterford’s Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons). This shoot out is dramatic, showing how the brothers, armed with pipe bombs, continued to keep the cops on the defensive.

Tamerlan is shot and then run over by his brother who escapes in the Mercedes SUV. With Dzhokhar on the run, the Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach), closes down the city, asking people to shelter in their homes. The younger brother is discovered hiding in a boat in someone’s backyard and finally apprehended.

Berg splices in real footage from the marathon and several times we see the actual photos of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar flash across the screen. Alex Wolff (Dzhokhar) and Themo Melikidze (Tamerlan) are appropriately evil and creepy as the brothers bent on killing Americans. Particularly chilling, however, is Benoist as Tamerlan’s wife who converted to Islam and supported her husband’s efforts. She was never charged with a crime. Four people who were charged and sent to prison included Dzhokhar’s college friends who knew what he had done and never reported him.

Similar to what Berg/Wahlberg did with Deepwater Horizon, the real people involved with the event are interviewed at the end. The film ends with David Ortiz, along with police officers who were at the marathon, marching onto the field at Fenway Park, celebrating “Boston Strong.” The Boston Red Sox would go on to win the World Series, a well-deserved gift to a city that had seen too much tragedy.

Photos courtesy of CBS Films

Deepwater Horizon – Disaster in the Gulf


This here’s the well from hell.

When the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana on April 20, 2010, it became the largest ecological disaster in U.S. history. Eleven men died, another 17 were injured, and after the rig burned and sank, millions of gallons of oil were spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. The damage to marine life and ecosystems is still being felt today. Directed by Peter Berg, Deepwater Horizon is the pulse-pounding retelling of the catastrophe. While the special effects are astounding, the human stories are what draw us in.


Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, and Stella Allen

Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean, was being leased by BP to find and drill oil wells in the Gulf. That April the rig was positioned 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana above a well called the Macondo Prospect. When the film opens, we see Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) the chief electronics technician, having breakfast with his wife Felicia (Kate Hudson), and daughter Sydney (Stella Allen), before heading off to spend 21 days on the platform. Sydney is obsessed with dinosaurs and her father’s job, helping to bring up the oil created by those prehistoric beasts. There’s a not so subtle preview of the tragedy. A soda can and straw that Sydney has put together to simulate drilling explodes.


Dylan O’Brien and Mark Wahlberg

Most of the actors play the real life characters who worked on the rig. The notable exception is John Malkovich’s character, Donald Vidrine, a BP official who becomes the story’s bad guy. The drilling is behind schedule and Vidrine pushes the Transocean crew captain, Mr. Jimmy (Kurt Russell), and other workers to speed things up, taking risks that will ultimately doom the operation.


Gina Rodriguez

Berg foreshadows the rig’s problems with shots showing what’s happening underwater. (To truly understand what went wrong, read the New York Times story that inspired the film.) Absorbing all the technical details isn’t essential; it soon becomes clear that the pipes won’t be able to hold all that pressure building up below. Soon mud starts to gush from the well, spraying nearby workers and covering the windows of the drill shack so those inside can’t see what’s happening. As dire as the situation appears, the crew had been trained for dealing with blowouts and there was still time to seal the well and prevent an explosion. Human error came into play, however. Technician Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), asks her supervisor about hitting the button that would seal the well. He orders her not to do so, saying they don’t have the authority to make that decision. By the time Mr. Jimmy arrives on the bridge, it’s too late.

Although there were many heroes who risked their lives saving others, the film focuses on Wahberg’s Williams. After finding Mr. Jimmy, who was in his room taking a shower when the explosion happened, Williams works to free another worker with a serious leg injury trapped under debris. Williams then convinces Fleytas to jump into the flaming ocean. They, along with many others, are pulled onto the nearby ship, the Bankston. Mr. Jimmy calls the roll and 11 men are not there to answer. Those who survived kneel and recite the Lord’s Prayer.


Kurt Russell and Ethan Suplee

Deepwater Horizon has much in common with another film about a true life disaster – Titanic. Like that luxury ocean liner, the floating drilling platform was a technological marvel. Both were behind schedule and tried to make up for lost time by speeding things up and taking risks. In the two situations, human error played a factor. Safety measures that might have prevented a disaster were not used. Improper training for a worst case scenario was lacking. There were not enough lifeboats in either situation and the ones that were there were not used properly.

What the Deepwater Horizon doesn’t show – and what would have made for dramatic footage – is the impact the spill had on marine life in the Gulf, all those exotic birds covered in crude oil. Six years later, scientists are still assessing the damage.

Deepwater Horizon opens nationwide September 30, 2016.

Photo credit: David Lee courtesy of Lionsgate