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THE PATRIOT

Directed by Roland Emmerich (2000, Columbia Tristar)
Starring Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Rene Auberjonois, and Jason Isaacs

A man joins the fight for American independence after his son is killed and his house is burned by the British.

View count: Twice

 

 

4 stars

July 8th, 2004 on TV

 
    I liked this movie a lot the second time around. There was much emotion to it, and especially sacrifice. I believe this was the last war fought in the old British style, which was "honorable", and face-to-face. As Ben watched the soldiers die this way, because the British were much better marksmen, no wonder he had no hope that the Colonial army could gain their independence by force. It was indeed a terrible waste.

The tactics he used, that he was free to use, were the same ones that the evil Colonel of the British army tried to use, to the chagrin of his superiors. If they wanted to terrify the population into submission, burning the houses and villages of purported rebel sympathisers is the way to go. However, it makes governing them a lot more difficult after the war ends. The Colonel didn't understand this -or perhaps he didn't care. Plus, as the General said, history would judge them by the honor with which they fought the war.

Ben, however, was free to use those tactics against the British. Targeting mostly officers, he was vindicated by history because he won, and because it was officers who made the decisions in war. They were a lot more responsible for the deaths than the ordinary soldiers were.

The best battle scene, as mentioned below, is the first real one that we see -between Ben and twenty British soldiers, as he rescues his son. When his son confronts the evil Colonel near the end of the movie, I thought the entire thing was too clichéd to really work. If the man could walk off with only a barely traceable limp (if that), then why was he bowled over when he was "shot"? Ben's son was also caught up in the "honor duel" from times past -the smart thing would have been to shoot the man again, and then stab him in anger as many times as he wanted to (he appeared to be in that kind of mood, anyway). Finally, the battle between Ben and the Colonel was way too over-the-top, and lasted way too long. There was too much slow motion, and it was dragged out. We get the point -that these two men are evenly matched. Yet somehow, with his leg slashed up (tendons?) and several stab and bullet wounds, Ben manages to put his sword through his opponent's gut. I'm surprised that the Colonel didn't take the momentum of his fall to take Ben's head off, as well. That's what kind of battle it seemed to be.

Still, the movie was really well made, and very enjoyable. That war was terrible, as all wars are. The people involved didn't seem to despair too much, even after having their homes torched. I suppose they believed in the cause so much. It would have been nice to have some closure on Ben's return to his daughters, and to know what happened to the traitor (was he in the last battle? I don't remember seeing him). We got some closure to the war, however, and to Ben's personal story.

 

 

4 stars

September 17th, 2000 in the Theatre

 
    This was terrific!  The fight scenes were great, though frustrating, there was humour interspersed just about everywhere, there were just enough violent acts to call for revenge, and the music was great.

There were a few moments that made me cringe, though.  One which occurred several times was the American flag waving.  I know that it's supposed to inspire, but I think it was overdone, especially with the music that went with it.  The speech that Anna made to shame the men of her town into joining the militia was also sappy enough to jar me from the movie, as with the music played there, too.

But overall, the music was great, during the battle scenes, tender moments, sad moments, and casual ones.  The battle scenes seemed more epic because of the music.  I also liked the pipes playing stuff like Yankee Doodle. 

Mel Gibson's character was a person who was tired of war.  Years ago, he was in a bloody war where he did some pretty awful stuff.  So he thinks diplomacy should be the way to get Independence.  But his oldest son disagrees, and joins up for the army. 

One day, two years later, there is a battle near his house, and he treats the wounded soldiers, of both sides.  His son also returns home, wounded.  The next morning, a very cruel British Colonel comes by, and thanks him for tending to his troops.  But because he also tended to the "rebel" troops, the house is burned to the ground.  His son is taken prisoner, to be hung, and another son is shot as they try to take his older son away. 

This provides the impetus to the rest of the movie.  Ben is after revenge.  He takes two of his younger sons, and they ambush the traveling British group.  Ben uses three guns and a tomahawk to defeat more than twenty troops, in a terrific battle scene that is unmatched through the whole film.  He then sends his kids to their aunt, and joins the army. 

The battle scenes between the British and the Colonial army are really neat to watch.  They provide insight into the British form of "gentlemanly conduct", because they each give the other side a chance to shoot, and it goes on and on until one side breaks.  It is a fundamental reason why this sort of war changed forever when automatic weapons were created. 

Ben knows they can never win against the British if they play by British rules of war.  So he drafts a militia, including his eldest son, and they ambush the British again and again.  Soon, Ben is being called "the Ghost", because he and his troops spring up from nowhere. 

Soon, the evil British Colonel is charged to capture or kill him, using any means necessary.  This is what the Colonel has wanted all along.  He starts torching houses and cities one by one, trying to flush Ben out.  He goes after Ben's five youngsters at their aunt's house, who get rescued just in time, in a very tense scene where I thought he was going to lose another son. 

Ben gives his men a week to take care of their families, lead them to some safe place.  It is during this interlude that his eldest son gets married, to a woman with whom he has been corresponding throughout nearly the entire war. 

Unfortunately, just as they arrive home, the next day, the evil Colonel arrives in their town, and calls a town meeting in the church.  He then locks everybody inside, and burns the church to the ground.  I knew it was going to happen the moment he told them to get inside.  But it was completely heart-wrenching to watch.  And it was even worse to see Ben's son's face when they came upon the church. 

I was grieved when his son died, then, but understand that he probably would not have been able to go on living without his love.  But I almost thought he would succeed in killing the British Colonel, because that is what appeared to happen.  But all too quickly, the circumstances were reversed. 

And Ben nearly gives up the entire fight.  But the flag his son stitched inspired him, and he takes his place at the front of the line.  They bluff the British in the next battle, which is to be decisive.  They make the British think that it is only militia fighting, and so are overconfident.  But when they chase the remaining militiamen over a hill, they are ambushed, and nearly defeated.  Ben's men are retreating, though, so he inspires them again, rallying them forward, forcing the British to retreat. 

But not before Ben meets his nemesis face to face.  They do good battle, and Ben uses all of his good luck charms -the lucky bullet, his tomahawk - to no effect.  Finally, he is on the ground, and he uses the same trick that the Colonel used on his son, earlier in the movie, and finally kills the man who slew his son. 

That is really where the movie ends, but I am glad they went on to finish the war.  It is done in voiceover, with visuals.  And the view of the French in the bay was amazing. 

The lone Frenchman was great, as was Ben's reaction to him.  "Typical French" was written all over Ben's eyes after talking with the man!  And the scenes with the dogs was hilarious.  They belonged to the British Admiral, but took a liking to Ben after being captured.  That made the "prisoner exchange" even funnier than it was to begin with, as Ben called the dogs out after him!  Of course, Ben's men were exchanged for British scarecrows.

I was enthralled with this movie.  It had passion, revenge, love, and humour.  The humour seemed a little out of place at times, and Mel Gibson looked a little too Lethal Weapon-ish at times.  The British Colonel seemed a little too evil , but at least it was acknowledged that he was disliked even by his peers, and was not acting by the established rules. 

Finally, Ben's daughters were absolute beauties!  I don't know where they found these girls, but even without any lines, they could hold up the screen on their own.  One has refused to speak since her mother died, three years earlier, but her eight year old sister encourages her all the time, and they both seem much, much older than they look.  She finally speaks in a heart-wrenching scene before Ben goes off to battle.  I was really hoping that he would keep his promise to her. 

The token black man gets some of the greatest lines.  He earns his freedom; unfortunately, he doesn't know that there will be another war fought for freedom in a hundred years.

This was a good film that I would enjoy again, I'm sure.  It seemed epic enough during the battle scenes, and it was great to see the loyalty that his men had for him.  It was heartfelt in all the right places, and really worked.

 
   

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