“Patriots Day” is an intense, compelling movie about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing which, sadly, reflects more recent headlines as well.

Peter Berg also directed the enjoyable “Deepwater Horizon,” which also stars Mark Wahlberg, a few months ago.

Both can be categorized as disaster movies. But “Patriots Day” is a tribute to police work, determination and courage – a respectful nod to law enforcement and brave citizens alike.

Walhberg, in what is arguably his finest role, plays fictional character Tommy Saunders, a police officer who reluctantly is assigned to security at the race finish line.

There is no tension development. The detonation simply happens, and it’s shocking in its suddenness and unexpectedness even though viewers know what’s coming. When the bombs detonate, chaos ensues, but Tommy remains level-headed and quickly helps everyone he can, from the injured to frightened members of the crowd and other emergency responders.

Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) arrives at the scene with FBI Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) to establish a command center. They build a miniature map of the city blocks to help predict the movements of the perpetrators, and they piece together evidence, from surveillance camera videos to grisly debris.

While we watch the investigation unfold, we also watch conversations between brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff), who monitor television news reports while investigators come closer to identifying them as the terrorists.

Is this an easy movie to watch? No, of course not, because it depicts an all-too-real incident that remains fresh in the mind of anyone old enough to remember it. It is not for the faint of heart or for children.

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From this ensemble, which include J.K. Simmons, you would expect nothing less than stellar performances, and that’s what you get, with Tommy's character at the center of the investigation.

 Tommy represents the real-life multiple exhausted officers, running on adrenaline, who have only one thing on their minds: Protected their beloved city, which, at one point, was shut down by the tragedy.

This is a terrific performance by Wahlberg, who brings an everyday, practical problem-solver approach to Tommy. He is by turns enraged, mournful and fearful while he interacts with other responders and his family.

Always, Berg is respectful of the victims, the responders and the character of the city itself. The movie personifies the phrase “Boston strong.”

Incidentally, at the end, there is a mini-documentary that left me in tears. Consider taking a tissue or two.

Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Broadcast Film Critics Association member. College instructor for criminal justice, English and math. Serves on Safer Foundation and The Salvation Army advisory boards. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church