Saturday, July 4, 2015

Movie Review: "The Patriot" (2000)

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Movie"The Patriot"
Director: Roland Emmerich
Year: 2000
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) is a widower and father of 7 children. He was also a decorated soldier during the French and Indian war. There have been rumblings that the American colonies are about to declare their independence from England. Benjamin has been asked to join the fight, but he wants nothing to do with war anymore. However, his eldest son Gabriel (Heath Ledger) signs up and joins the colonial army despite his father's disapproval. After a couple years of war, the British are winning and a battle winds up on Benjamin's plantation. When the battle stops, Benjamin offers medical aid to both British and Colonial soldiers. When British Col. William Tavington (Jason Isaacs) arrives at the battle site, he is unhappy that Benjamin has offered aid to the Colonials. He also arrests Gabriel, who was there recovering from the battle, and threatens to hang him for transporting messages for the rebels. When Gabriel's younger brother Thomas (Gregory Smith) tries to help him, Col. Tauvington shoots and kills Thomas. Tauvington then seizes Benjamin's land and burns his home. This drives Benjamin into the war and he is placed as the head of the militia and nicknamed The Ghost. He teaches them and employs guerilla tactics against the more powerful British Army. 

"The Patriot" is a fictional story that takes place during the American Revolution and is the perfect film to review for the Fourth of July. It doesn't give a real historical look at the war as it revolves around the relationship between one father and his seven various aged children. Benjamin Martin, played by Mel Gibson, who we have negative feelings about as a person but is a decent enough actor, isn't interested in fighting in the war at all. He believes that the colonies should have proper representation and agrees with their cause, but doesn't want to go to war because he has an obligation to his children. His son Gabriel, played by the late Heath Ledger, is willing to go to war for what he believes is right and quickly signs up for the fight. It's when a British Col. named William Tauvington, played brutally by Jason Isaacs, makes the mistake of killing Benjamin's 15 year old son Thomas, played by Gregory Smith, and burns down his home that Benjamin gets involved in the fight. These unspeakable actions bring Benjamin into the war, seeking revenge on Col. Tauvington, who has been dubbed "The Butcher" by the American colonists due to his brutal and unorthodox ways. One of the people to play a real life war figurehead is Tom Wilkinson, who plays Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis. Cornwallis leads the British assault in South Carolina and is a very traditional commander. Wilkinson does a great job, but doesn't have a whole heck of a lot of screen time in such a long movie. After Benjamin joins the fight, he starts teaching the local militia guerrilla tactics, a style of fighting Cornwallis and his soldiers aren't use to. The standard for battles up to this point have been armies meeting on the open field, lined up in rows with muskets and trading shots until one group charges at the other. The guerrilla warfare style involves hiding and using the terrain to their advantage, targeting officers and often ambushing them, which Gen. Cornwallis finds 'rude.' All of these smaller battles and exchanges lead to an all-out assault between the two groups, where Benjamin is finally given an opportunity to right the wrongs Tauvington purported against his family. As with any war movie, there is a lot of graphic violence and imagery, including this finale scene. We expected this to be the case, but believe us when we say there are some really brutal scenes in this film. One in particular is where a man has his head blown clean off with a cannonball. Gross.

As far as the acting goes, Mel Gibson does a good job as Benjamin Martin and plays a vengeful father well. As we mentioned above, he might be a really crappy person in real life, but as an actor, he's not half bad. Does this make up for the things he's done and said? No, but it can make it harder for audiences to be unbiased, us included. We have to give him props where he deserves them and this is one such time. Heath Ledger also does a fine job as Benjamin's stubborn son Gabriel. From the minute we see him on screen, he seems to make it his mission to disobey his father's every order, yearning to fight for what he believes in in the war, regardless of what his dad may tell him. Jason Isaacs plays a villain quite well as he has a sinister look to his face. He makes these smirks which can send chills up your spine, and we the audience knows he's up to no good. He is able to deliver his lines and sound quite cold blooded and unremorseful. We can't go over every performance because there are just too many people and characters in this film to cover every single one, but the majority of the people in this movie act very well in it. Overall, this is a pretty entertaining war picture boiled down to small drama about a father and his children that we can get behind. We find ourselves rooting for Benjamin and his misfit militia, and though this movie is just short of 3 hours long, it is engaging the entire time and extremely well paced.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 62%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "The Immigrant"

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