Mark Wahlberg: Master of the everyman biopic

After an unconventional start into acting, from being in a 90s hip hop group to modelling underwear for Calvin Klein, Mark Wahlberg has emerged into one of the most talented and most diverse performers of his generation. Appearing in everything from belly-laugh comedies, action-packed blockbusters and new takes on horror, it’s his portrayal of real-life heroes where Wahlberg has found his niche. Taking on inspirational stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things has allowed the Boston-born actor to flex his dramatic skills and win critical and audience acclaim as he brings incredible stories of the ‘everyman’ to the big screen.

Wahlberg’s most recent role as Sgt. Tommy Saunders, sees him as an amalgam of several real-life police officers and first responders who were caught up in the Boston Marathon attack. Following Saunders as the hunt for those responsible begins, the audience meets some of the heroes of the aftermath in the poignantly accurate portrayal of one of America’s darkest days.

To celebrate the release of PATRIOTS DAY on Blu-ray and DVD June 26, we take a look at Mark Wahlberg’s most celebrated performances within stories that highlight the unimaginable bravery that ordinary people can demonstrate.

The Fighter

Wahlberg gives one of his greatest performances in David O. Russell's drama as Micky Ward, the boxer who gets his last chance at a light welterweight title despite family politics reaching boiling point. Conflicted between loyalty towards his drug-addict brother and trainer Dicky (Christian Bale) and the nagging feeling that he is holding him back, Micky decides to step out of his family’s shadow with the help of his girlfriend which immediately creates tension at home, particularly with his overbearing mother. A touching portrayal of dreams and the sacrifices you make to reach your goals, The Fighter was a passion project of Wahlberg’s who intended to do Ward's life story “justice” and achieved that with 2 Oscar wins.

Lone Survivor

Peter Berg's hit film about a SEAL team mission in Afghanistan that went catastrophically wrong isn't concerned so much with character as it is with the endurance and devastation of the human body in combat. As Marcus Luttrell, Mark Wahlberg is appropriately strong and chummy throughout but maintains an edge of quiet observation necessary to survive. In the film's later scenes, as his wounded character gets more and more desperate, Wahlberg portrays a phenomenal level of anxiety and fear in a sincere, yet stunningly physical performance.

Deepwater Horizon

Mark Wahlberg’s carved out a strong career playing heroes, but playing a man who helped save the day in an actual tragedy — particularly the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history in which lives were lost — takes a little more tact than your average action thriller. It’s a line he managed to walk successfully with Deepwater Horizon, which saw him reuniting with Lone Survivor director Peter Berg to dramatise the nominal oil rig’s 2010 spill with a combination of excitement and respect for the gravity of the situation. Leading an impressive cast rounded out by Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, and Kate Hudson, Wahlberg played real-life ship worker Mike Williams, giving audiences a blue collar hero to root for.


This Disney sports drama is about real-life Philadelphia Eagles legend Vince Papale, a part-time bartender who in 1975 at the age of 31 made the team through open try-outs. The film is surprisingly grim and hard-hitting at times: Philly was suffering in the mid-1970s and the film's working-class setting is effectively drab and despairing. It also works with Wahlberg's tendency to underplay his emotions, he's effective as the character who doesn't really believe he'll ever amount to anything, and keeps his thoughts to himself. Thanks to him, when Papale's big moment comes, the cumulative power of all those bottled-up emotions is something not to be missed.

Patriots Day

Now in his third biopic with director Peter Berg, Mark Wahlberg is not quite the hero of "Patriots Day." Instead, the audience meets the true heroes of the devastating attack on Boston through his eyes. Part thriller and part documentary-style, Berg's film tells the tale of the massive manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers. Encountering real-life heroes, from victims to witnesses to police officers, Patriots Day has been heralded for its authenticity – even using the actual CCTV footage used to locate the attackers. A Bostonian through and through, Wahlberg had no trouble powerfully evoking the feelings of horror and defiance in the face of hatred that the world felt at the time.


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