Take Lone Survivor, the film he made before Deepwater Horizon. Hollywood had mostly ignored the U.S.’s fight against the Taliban until Berg brought Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s best-seller to the big screen. Berg’s 2013 adaptation showcased the heroism of Luttrell’s fellow SEALs while portraying Taliban barbarism in an unblinking fashion.
Lone Survivor wasn’t propaganda; it was a tribute to heroes like those Hollywood used to produce with regularity. It was the kind of film Berg was made for, and the kind of film he’s returned to with Patriot’s Day. The January 13 release stars Wahlberg (again) as a cop caught up in the Boston Marathon melee. It’s an ensemble thriller that feels like a documentary at times. That’s Berg the auteur, a storyteller with as much skill as his better-known peers.
The film itself continues Berg’s personal style. Wahlberg’s cop isn’t a blustery hero. He’s as overwhelmed as everyone else when the bombs go off, and at one point he even breaks down, allowing grief to wash over him in a powerful scene. But he focuses on the job at hand, because a proud city and the lives of its inhabitants are at stake.
It’s no accident that the signature achievement of Berg’s career, Friday Night Lights, proved a respectful vision of small-town USA. The long-running TV show, spun off from his 2004 movie of the same name, didn’t ignore Middle America’s flaws but made sure to salute its common decency.
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