Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: “Patriots Day” will profit off of 2013 Boston Marathon tragedy

Many people wonder if “Patriots Day,” a movie about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, is even worth making anymore. On March 5, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth denied filmmakers permission to film on their campus, citing the disruption to campus life the shoot would cause, The Boston Globe reported.

CBS Films, the production company behind “Patriots Day,” issued a statement to the Globe in which it wrote that it will make a movie that will “make [UMass Dartmouth] and the entire city of Boston proud.”

This comes just a week after Watertown also prohibited filming on Dexter Avenue and Laurel Street, the intersection where the shootout between perpetrators Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the police, USA TODAY reported. The city denied the production company’s request because the scene would have required loud gunshots to be repeatedly fired at night.

When is it too soon to revisit a traumatic event through cinema? There’s no real answer, but three years seems like too short of a recovery period.

If this movie were a documentary, the resurgence of pain that comes with revisiting the incident may also provide an opportunity to learn more about the stories of those affected by the bombing. But this is not a documentary. It’s a big-time Hollywood production starring Mark Wahlberg, J.K. Simmons and John Goodman. Its purpose is not to inform, but to profit. The monetization of tragedy is never OK.

The filmmakers could be completely genuine in their efforts to represent the City of Boston as accurately and respectfully as possible. But Bostonians will inevitably question the authenticity of this movie and its motives. Vigils and memorials pay tribute to those lost in tragedies. Movies just pay.

This movie is one more installation in a long legacy of Hollywood movies that use Boston as a gloomy backdrop to carry out their dreary historical fantasies. There’s so much more to Boston than just mobsters and terror attacks.

Hopefully the premise of a bombing won’t lend itself to an action movie. Trading real people’s stories for high-speed chases and gunshots is something that Hollywood has done all too often. It leaves behind the truth for the glamour.

Putting the Hollywood glitz on tragedies cheapen them if a movie isn’t done right. Handled well, “Patriots Day” could prove successful in capturing a significant moment in Boston’s history. “Spotlight” handled a traumatic event very respectfully.

The biggest issue about this movie is that its story will not be told by the actual people who directly experienced the marathon bombing. They won’t be interviewed because characters will be too busy telling the story.

And if the movie must come out, it doesn’t matter if it is actually shot in Boston. There’s no need to make the people of Boston relive a tragedy more than once in the name of entertainment. Bostonians just want closure and time enough away from the event to heal. Seeing this movie advertised is going to be like Boston Marathon coverage part two for those who’ve suffered from it.

Boston is a city with pride like no other. Memories from the will always be with this city, and the emotional burden of the incident will always be with its residents. Even those who moved to Boston just to attend college have a deep connection to this city. It takes a heavy heart to just hear about the bombing again. Boston doesn’t need a movie to document that.

The City of Boston likely isn’t going to rally around “Patriots Day” prior to its release. It will probably never be the right time to revisit a tragedy as significant as the 2013 marathon bombing. Way back when, very few movies were made after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Documentaries were certainly released, but not making a movie out of a national tragedy is the right decision. Everyone heals at different rates.


  1. Daniel C. Wilson

    The entire event that day in 2013 had been scripted. It was all a DHS-paid-for piece of realistic propaganda and not the “real” event as portrayed in the media. Unfortunately and ironically this movie will reinforce that narrative. It is clear that nobody was actually injured on Boylston. Until we accept the depravity of a government that will not only actually bomb children, we will not understand its ability to pull off a twisted piece of propaganda used to manipulate emotions more than a more obvious theatre piece put on by mainstream actors. I dare anyone to question what I am saying. I have studied this event for years and only mean to enlighten. Look at the pictures of that day in earnest and you will come to the same conclusion. Check out some if my efforts on this subject on my twitter page as @BostonPsyOp or just google boston marathon bombing hoax and read a few things with an open mind. It can be painful to accept those in authority over us are capable and willing to lie to us in such a manner but facts are facts and true growth comes best from acceptance of every detail. much love.

  2. Dan is absolutely correct. They can’t make a documentary. Since the Boston Marathon event in 2013, a great deal of cell phone audio and video material has been researched. Just prior to the first blast, it can be heard over the PA – “This is a drill. This is a drill.” The Boston Globe was tweeting during the Marathon, and announced the approaching explosion in “one minute” and placed the location for the drill bombing as across from the library. A series second by second photos taken from the upper floors shows the drill participants taking their place, being showered with bags of dust, and purses with paint bladders used to spread reddish orange fake blood. Photo evidence shows a man placing a turbo fan to spread the smoke, and then carrying the device away. Much more evidence…

  3. I’m going to ignore the offensive conspiracy theorists above.

    That said, this is a poorly written and argued piece seemingly assembled by committee. It lacks consensus even within its own thesis; the writer(s) initially claim that one can “never monetize tragedy” before remarking that “Spotlight” was handled respectfully. Which is it?

    What do the writers have to say about Black Mass, an A-list production based on real murders shot on location, which received a hearty reception with a premiere at the Coolidge Corner? Going back further, what about Titanic? Cameron and his team invented a schmaltzy romance to anchor his pic that certainly “monetized” the tragedy and offered very little educational insight to historical events. Is that such a travesty?

    I agree with the general notion that films involving real tragedies and victims shouldn’t be exploitative and need to be handled with a certain delicacy and care. However, you’re arguing they shouldn’t be made with any regard for commerce, which is antithetical to any film business. Not all films can or should be documentaries, and I have some faith that the creative team will do their due diligence in researching the events and interviewing relevant parties. You can’t say that the victims won’t be interviewed because “characters” will be too busy telling the story… because it’s a scripted film. Those scripted characters may be original creations derived from the true story, composites of real people, or direct adaptations of actual individuals. We don’t know, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that they won’t “tell the story.” Unless they add random action scenes or needlessly sensationalize, the story of the Boston Marathon will be told, in some form.

    And frankly, we don’t know how the filmmakers plan to execute the film – I highly doubt it’s a puff piece evangelizing the bombers. It’s more likely to be an inspirational thriller highlighting the bravery and perseverance of survivors, first responders, and the city of Boston as a whole. Is that such a bad thing? I don’t know about you, but I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and relief when the bombers were caught and the city united in a massive show of resilience. Who are you to say that the filmmakers can’t be allowed to try and capture that spirit on film? Sure, the financiers are motivated by profit – but so is almost every film ever made.

    You may also want to double check your research on 9/11 filmmaking; “World Trade Center” was released in 2006 starring Nicholas Cage five years following the attacks. In fairness, it had a tepid reception and barely made back its reported budget. No word yet if Patriots Day will befall a similar fate, but I’m willing to give them the artistic benefit of the doubt, something the editors at the DFP don’t seem willing to do.

    • And in that vein, what makes an event “too sensitive” for film? Only time? By that logic, should Holocaust films never be made? This editorial asks many more question than it answers.

  4. This should not be a movie, plain and simple. Everyone knows what happened, why traumatize the region again? This is so disgusting. If you are from Boston or the area and you pay to see this movie you should be ashamed of yourself.

    and…I have suspicions about the official story myself, but believe me, people were hurt, people were killed, and those bombs were very real. I used to work very close to the finish line until the PTSD symptoms became too much, and I know one of the people who died. This really did happen and to say it didn’t is disrespectful to the people who survived.

  5. Mark Wahlberg (ex teen thug) capitalizing on his authentic New England accent in order to make money off of a tragedy. Documentaries are hard enough to watch but at least are made for the purpose of Education. This Patriot’s Day movie is simply a “based on a true story” type of Hollywood movie in order to get a paycheck at the expense of those who actually lived through the Marathon bombing tragedy and subsequent events and we are not talking about historical films based on events like World War 2 or further back. The few Veterans of that war are usually glad to be remembered at this point. Even though their memories are painful when brought up they’ve had a lifetime behind them since the war and that’s not what we’re talking about here. Mark Wahlberg learned how to capitalize on tragedy in 2000 when he used his native New England accent to portray a fisherman on the doomed fishing vessel Andrea Gail in the movie The Perfect Storm. The movie was based on the fantastic book that by Sebastian Junger. The book was a nonfiction volume that included all types of historical perspective about storms in that area through history along with the modern story from that 1991 storm. I was told by people in Gloucester that they were insulted by Wahlberg’s movie star antics and lack of approachability or camaraderie with the people of the town. Even though he did visit the family of Bobby Shatford, the fisherman he portrayed, he was mostly unavailable to the town and her people where he subsequently made money off the tragedy portrayed in the movie. He just comes across as very disingenuous now because he obviously lacks the sensitivity to know that this is not something that you make a Payday off of and the marathon bombings are still so fresh and acute for so many. Maybe some future financiers of these movies about terrorism will learn that after they make an attack somewhere that they can Finance the movie about it afterwards from behind the scenes and with multiple layers of lawyers Banks etc.hiding their identity so that they can Finance their next attack. People think. This is not entertainment. Terrorism should not make money for anyone, especially people like Mark Wahlberg who are trying to portray themselves as some sort of humble servant to the project instead of what they really are…. greedy and exploitive human beings lacking conscience but full of ego trying to make money and increase their Fame while burnishing and revamping their reputation.
    Pay attention people