I remember the very first time I watched “The Patriot.” I was in middle school and our social studies teacher decided to put the film on to show us about the Revolutionary War. To say the film was a little inappropriate for middle school students may have been accurate. The film shows lots of gory battle scenes with soldiers being killed and decapitated. However, that was my favorite part of it and the film has still stuck with me to today.
“The Patriot” follows French and Indian War veteran Benjamin Martin, played by Mel Gibson, who is put directly into the conflict of the colonies’ fight for independence from the British. At first, Martin doesn’t want to be involved due to raising his family of seven children after the death of his wife. This doesn’t stop his oldest son Gabriel, played by Heath Ledger, from eventually joining the military to help in the fight for independence.
In the aftermath of a battle, Gabriel ends up near his father’s home where his father has come to the aid of both British and Colonial soldiers. However, they soon run into British Colonel William Tavington, played by Jason Isaacs. Colonel Tavington proceeds to take Gabriel for execution for being a spy, murders the wounded Colonial soldiers and orders Martin’s house to be burned down. Trying to rescue his brother, Thomas, played by Gregory Smith, tries to charge at Tavington only to be shot down by him. Martin, having changed his mind on fighting the war, takes two of his sons to rescue Gabriel brutally killing the British soldiers with a tomahawk. From this point on, Martin joins the military and helps to fight for independence and avenge the death of his son.
“The Patriot” does many things right in terms of being a great action film. We have the protagonist who is willing to do anything to achieve his goals. We have the villain who is pure evil yet still enticing to watch. And we have the setting of the Revolutionary War to provide tons of action throughout. The formula is all there and is executed very well.
The film is directed by Roland Emmerich, the director responsible for the Will Smith classic, “Independence Day.” Emmerich throughout the film showcases that he knows how to shoot and direct action very well. The film is brutal in the various killings that happen. While most of the more horrific acts in the film aren’t historically accurate, it still works in favor of the film to portray the grittiness of the war.
“The Patriot” also thrives on its’ dramatic scenes that are always done well. Gibson delivers a great performance that shows him both as a noble leader of his men but also an animal that shows no mercy. Isaacs’ performance is fantastic giving the viewer a clear villain to hate and hope that they get what they deserve. There is really no bad acting in this film despite maybe a couple of scenes. Even some of the child actors pull off some great scenes. The youngest daughter Susan, played by Skye McCole Bartusiak, throughout the film refuses to speak due to PTSD from watching her mother die. However, in one scene, she decides to finally speak to her father in a scene that is a pure tearjerker.
However, despite all these good things about the film, it is nowhere near perfect. The almost three hour runtime can be a little much especially when they have scenes that don’t involve the main characters. Some of these scenes could’ve been cut down to make the movie a little bit more digestible.
Along with that, the film’s title in itself is a lie if you really think about it. The character of Benjamin Martin isn’t a patriot. He spends the beginning of the movie being against fighting in the war. He only changes his mind when his son is murdered by a British Colonel. If this action never happened, he would’ve never joined to fight. In actuality, his son Gabriel is more of a patriot than he is. He is someone who was willing to fight from the beginning and didn’t need any other circumstances to convince him. Though he is a great character, Benjamin Martin is more of a man on a plan for revenge, who at one point decides to also fight for independence as well.
“The Patriot” is a great action film to watch with all of its brutal imagery and great performances. Though it can be historically inaccurate and a little on the long side, the film is worth a viewing.
Rating: 9 out of 10