It’s always interesting to compare a film that claims to be “based on true events” with insights from agents who were actually there.
So selecting the movie Patriot’s Day (2016) to review for FBI policy and procedural accuracy was an easy call. I’ve posted case reviews on the Boston Marathon bombings:
Here’s the IDMb plot summary:
The story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists responsible.
In the movie, Kevin Bacon plays the role of former FBI Boston Division SAC Richard “Rick” DesLauriers.
During my recent interview with Rick, I asked him if the director and actors requested his help with getting the story right and making the film as authenticate as possible.
“I was contacted out of the blue by Michael Radetzky, who was a producer for CBS Films and he told me they wanted to make a movie about the Boston marathon bombing investigation. I was happy to participate, as long as I could be assured that the movie would portray the victims in an empathetic and sensitive manner. I was assured it would, and, as CBS Films went down the road of making the movie, I became increasingly confident that they would honor that.”
I asked Rick what he first thought when he heard Kevin Bacon would play him.
“They initially told me that they had an actor in mind to portray me in the movie. I didn’t recognize the name. I’m not a big movie watching person. So, I don’t know too many actors, but then a few weeks later they called me and said Kevin Bacon is going to be portraying me in the movie. I remembered him from Animal House back in 1978 when I was in college.”
“CBS Films flew me up to Boston, and I was lucky enough to sit down and have a one-on-one lunch with Kevin Bacon. “
“He told me, when he portrays a real-life person, he likes to get to know them, to meet them and learn about their family history, their educational history. He was extremely unpretentious.”
Rick also spoke with Peter Berg, the movie’s director, and was invited to visit the set during filming. When I watched the movie, I was impressed with the accuracy of the scenes at the command post. So, I wanted to know what Rick thought of the finished project. He said he had no specific concerns about the Patriot’s Day portrayal of the FBI.
“I thought it was a very well done. I’ve seen the movie dozens of times since then. I thought it was compassionate towards the victims, which was most important. I thought Kevin Bacon nailed me. He looked a lot like me, even though he’s a lot better looking than I am, but he nailed my walk and the way I dressed. It was an honor for me to participate in it.”
As I wrote in FBI Myths and Misconceptions: A Manual for Armchair Detectives, when a movie about a true-life situation is made, filmmakers often take some liberties, make some creative compromises, because they have to condense what happened into a timeframe under two hours.
I asked Rick what compromises they made in the filming of Patriot’s Day and how he felt about them.
“Two parts of the movie stand out. When we’re grappling over the decision when to release the video evidence, John Goodman, portraying Commissioner Ed Davis, is shown yelling at me and screaming at me and slamming his fist on the table. That never happened. That was a bit exaggerated. Also, the scene in Watertown with the brothers throwing bombs at the officers, I don’t think cars were being flipped over and things like that.”
Patriot’s Day is currently streaming on Prime Video. You can watch the official trailer here.