It seemed for a time that Mel Gibson thought that the one thing that makes a new picture better than his last picture is a higher body count. Rack up an astonishing 182 dead bodies in 'The Patriot'. This includes death by all manner of devices 'civilised' and otherwise, including a beheading by cannonfire. Did such things happen? Indeed. Do such things continue to happen around the world? Well, there are fewer tomahawk axings (save at the occasional baseball game) but, yes, alas, we still live in a violent world. Does a movie like 'The Patriot' gorify, er, I mean, glorify it too much?
I thought this was a reasonably good movie. I could have done without the more than 1-dead-body-per-minute body count, but I thought this was an interesting tale.
--Double standards in movies--
One thing that irritates me, if you will permit me a brief digression, is that this epic film competed in epic terms, with the earlier summer release Gladiator. One criticism of Gladiator I heard over and over was that it was not true to the history of the time. I did not hear that criticism levelled at The Patriot, which is just as fictional while being based in a real-world scenario.
Of course, another parallel with Gladiator that I couldn't help but notice is that of a major villain (the emperor Commodus in G, and the despicable Tavington (played admirably by Jason Isaacs) here) taunting our hero to try to make him lose his cool, only to be rebuffed and get his come-uppance later.
Ah, formulas aren't just for the chemistry lab...
Mel Gibson turns in his usual good performance as Benjamin Martin (how colonial a name is that?), a widowed single father of a large brood of children, who had had enough of war in the French and Indian War (perhaps America's most forgotten war), reluctantly goes along with his idealistic son as he determines the best way to preserve his family (his personal definition of and attachment to liberty) is to drive the British out.
There is a dark secret in Martin's past (which I won't reveal here). Alas, I didn't think it was THAT dark, but then, in colonial times, well...
Of course, the British (in this film, and in real life) had no reason to think that they could ever lose this war (the loss of the colonies is perhaps best likened to America's failure in Vietnam -- how can a superpower, and Britain the strongest superpower of the time, lose a war against underequipped, ill-trained, poorly disciplined... well, you get the drift).
The battlefield drama, the struggle to decide what is right and wrong, the fight with the inner demons and the past, make this an interesting psychological drama despite the pile of dead bodies in the background.
The costs were staggering, but this held all the elements for a summer blockbuster -- star power, compelling theme (ID 4 also grabbed the July holiday slot, and did well, and shares many of the same people in production with The Patriot). Many have described this as the American Braveheart -- I wonder, if Gibson were not in, if that would be true? Gibson claims not to have given much advice to the filmmakers of 'The Patriot', whereas he was in charge of Braveheart. If the battlefield scenes look similar, that is because battlefield scenes do look similar, over time (and across films).
This movie shows in stark terms some of the conditions and costs of the American Revolution/War with the Colonies. It is perhaps one of the more regrettable wars in human history, much more akin to the American Civil War a century later, as it pitted relatives and friends against each other. Could there have been a better way?
Alas, we'll never know.
on July 3, 2004
First of all, let me make one thing clear: this may be about the American Revolution, but this didn't happen. It's fiction- HISTORICAL fiction, but still fiction.
I thought it was very good, though, taking that into consideration. Gibson was very good; but the whole him-taking-on-about-ten-Brits-armed-with-rifles-with-just-a-hatchet thing was a just a bit unbelievable. Just a bit...
This movie's got something for everyone... action, adventure, war, family, friendships, and they even tie in a few love lines. I was crying when Gabriel's wife and the town was burned in the church... and it was really hard to keep your eyes dry when Susan started running toward her father when he was riding away and said "I'll say anything!"...
Movie magic, and the war is dramatized no end. Then again... WHAT war isn't dramatized nowadays? And when has there ever been a movie about the American Revolution?
Oh- yeah- almost forgot. Gibson's character is based loosely around this guy named 'Swamp Fox' that used covert methods of attack against the British in the Revolution. But- I said loosely. VERY loosely.
Good movie, and the only reason it's rated R is that there's violence. As in, a LOT of violence.
on July 18, 2004
Once again, people crave for authenticity...the way it really happened....and once again, I say, "It's a movie. It's entertaining and moving....I didn't take my history book along to make sure it was totally accurate. I like escapism, and movies that move me." This movie did that. It's beautifully filmed by the respected Caleb Deschanel; the music by John Williams is moving, and the cast on a whole is exceptional. Mel Gibson has been labeled an okay actor, but if you look deep inside his performances, the man does his best in filling whatever shoes his role dictates. As the family-oriented and somewhat stubborn father, he evokes the pain he feels from his actions in an earlier battle with the French; he seems devastated by his youngest daughter's silence to him; and he loves his family. Joely Richardson is effectively cast as Mel's sister in law, who helps take care of his family during this crisis. Heath Ledger is all gungho and spirited as Gabriel, and plays well with the rest of his cast. Tom Wilkinson is superb as Cornwallis, a man steeped in tradition and British fanfare. His scene with Gibson in which the patriot negotiates for the release of his 18 prisoners is exceptional. Jason Isaacs is pure evil in his role as the heartless Haverton (or whatever), and shows that war to him is merely licensed murder. The rest of the supporting cast: Chris Cooper, Rene Auberjonois, Adam Baldwin, Gregory Smith, Mira Boorkem, and Donal Logue, in particular, are great additions.
The movie is a manipulative film, of course...how else would it work, but it's to director Roland Emmerich's credit, that when the credits were over, I felt moved and touched. That's what films are meant to be in my opinion.
on April 12, 2004
Okay, I don't know why all the negative criticism about this movie. First, let me tell folks that this is a movie you should look at without expecting it to totally change your life or your outlook on it. It is not a history lesson; it is based loosely on some facts, but basically it is fiction with the backdrop of the American Revolution, and how great that was, and so is this movie. Mel Gibson was excellent. There were other people in the movie who also played their roles superbly. It is a brutally real story of war in people's own backyards and towns, and focuses on one man's struggle to protect his family from the horrors of the war around them. Whoever says this movie blows has expected way too much from a movie like this, and expects a movie to just dramatically alter their feelings. Don't listen to the criticism; see the movie for yourselves, and then decide based on the storyline itself, not its historical inaccuracies. And all props go out to director Roland Emmerich!
on February 17, 2004
What makes a film "realistic"?
Well, that depends on the subject matter. If the film is intended as a historical recreation, then it needs to be exact in terms of both events and aesthetics. If, on the other hand, the purpose is entertainment, then the standard is different.
Everyone knew going in that "The Patriot" was a fictional story. Given that, it's sole burden to "realism" was to capture the feel of the era as accurately as possible. It did so with remarkable skill. If these people had really lived, this is certainly what it would have been like.
The truth is, almost every negative review this movie has gotten is from one of two sources: (1) defensive Brits trying to to avoid some kind societal guilt (something akin to racism) for the actions of their ancestors and (2) people who dislike the messages Mel Gibson has put into his more recent movies (especially since he's now even daring to make a movie about Jesus!).
on July 7, 2004
The 2000 summer film, "The Patriot" which I believe was in theatres appropiately on the 4th of July, stars Mel Gibson in the heroic role of Benjamin Martin, a father fighting for his family and his colony from the British enemy forces of General Cornwallis (played by Tom Wilkinson). The movie was directed by Roland Emmerich, the director of Independence Day, which, though science fiction blockbuster epic that it was, still maintained the 4th of July American patriotism theme much like this movie. Being entirely different from his usual blockbusters (Godzilla, Day After Tomorrow most recently) Emmerich immerses us into the historical period of early America in the 1770's, when the budding, newfound country was at war with Great Britain. The American Revolution was the first real war in America. The country was earning its independence and fighting for it in the most literal sense.
Althoug the movie keeps its period piece/costume drama visuals, in the dialogue you can find traces of modernism. For example, in one scene, Mel Gibson sits with his wife and asks "Can I sit here ?" and she replies in comedy tone "Hey it's a free country.. or that is it will be". Much of Mel Gibson's own influence is in this movie. He did not direct this movie although he could have easily done so. The fighting scenes, the battles, the gunfights and the violence is very Mel Gibson in nature (he is after all responsible for such films as Braveheart). The portrayal of the British is of course biased since it's on the American side we're sympathezing with. Cornwallis is a man we love to hate-rude, arrogant and cruel. The other British in the film are also portrayed as very nasty. The message of patriotism, love of family and home is all quite strong here. But it does make a good film if you're into this period, if you want to see Mel Gibson doing a historic piece and as the hero which he always does so well in. Mel Gibson, though much older now, is still a great actor and provides much romantic/sex appeal. On DVD, the movie is loaded with extra features including commentary and "Making Of" segment.
on June 25, 2004
While The Patriot is entertaining, there are some historical inaccuracies:
1. Cornwallis was not at Cowpens (the movie's final battle) and there was no large mansion on the battlefield! Cowpens was known as a place for cattle to graze and contained some woods but no large houses.
2. Mel Gibson loosely portrayed Francis Marion (aka "The Swamp Fox) while Jacob Issacs' portrayal of Tavington was loosely based on Banastre Tarleton. As far as I know the two never met in battle and Tarleton survived the war. Tarleton did command the losing side in the Battle of Cowpens.
3. As far as I know, there were no French at the Battle of Cowpens - the battle was fought by militia and Continental troops on the American side vs. loyalists and British troops on the other side.
4. I do not believe any record exists of Mel Gibson's character ("The Swamp Fox") ever meeting Tavington (Tarleton) or Cornwallis.
I live only about 1.5 hours from the Cowpens battlefield and have visited the site several times. So much for Hollywood historical accuracy!
Despite this, I did enjoy the movie and could feel Gibson's reluctance to join the American cause and found myself despising Tavington (killed two of Gibson's sons, burned the church with people in it, shooting wounded Americans, torching homes, etc.). In my humble opinion, I thought at least the acting was good.
Buy or rent the movie and enjoy, but be warned: there are some bloody scenes for the squeamish. Such is the nature of war!
on June 20, 2004
I have a lot of respect for Mel Gibson & I feel he did the best he could in this flawed war movie. That being said, the dialogue is completely laughable at times & just plain stupid at others. When I first heard about this movie I rejoiced, thinking it'd be a factual (or at least partly) account of the famous "Swamp Fox" of the Rev. War, Francis Marion. His story would make an incredible movie, but the filmmakers decided to create their own version of Marion, who becomes Benjamin Martin. It goes down from there. Have you ever seen anything so unbelievably stupid as one crazed man & two boys wiping out a group of 20 British troops?!? And how about the mandatory bad guy gets killed by the hero at the end! Nothing like a bayonet through the throat to entertain an audience! I guess they were trying to achieve another "Braveheart", but they missed their mark completely. Being a history buff makes it easier to criticize movies like this, but I will say that it's pretty hard to not be entertained by the large-scale battle scenes, which are nicely done. I'll close by saying that as history, this fails drastically, but as pure entertainment it's not all that bad.
on June 3, 2004
I was excited at the prospect of a Revolutionary War Film. How disappointed I was when I saw this movie. I'm glad I rented it and didn't see it in the theatres...
If you know nothing of history, this film is great. It's really not completely terrible... but it's not *good*. The kids do a far better job acting than do some of the veterans. But you can't blame them, really, you can only blame a bad script. And why is the villain the most intriguing character in this movie? You'll have to read my "So you'd like to Root for the Bad Guy" movie list to answer that. =)
Here's what we learn about the Rev War from this film:
That ALL Brits soldiers wear nothing but Red coats, all Colonial soldiers wear blue, the Colonists spoke with nondescript "American" accents, that the French didn't arrive until after the battle at Cowpens (at the end, basically), Cowpens is a big dry field with niffty Mediaeval ruins, all armies fight in line formation, that "militia" means incompetent or rustic farmers with pitchforks, in battle you NEVER ever kill the Officers, that the high-ranking Officers didn't fight with the menial soldiers - they stood safely off to the side and watched, that blacks weren't slaves in the south (except to the rich), 18th C. Colonial women wore French style sacback dresses, married women ran around without matron caps, widows didn't wear black, and that unmarried men and women could shnog each other on the street or on the beach without their parents or anyone else protesting. Sounds good, right?
Good GRIEF! Did Rodat and Emmerich REALLY think the American audience was SO stupid that we wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a British and a Colonial soldier? And that we wouldn't remember the most major events from our American History classes? That we wouldn't be able to guess that when the "good" (Boring) characters were getting shot at by a handsome bloke on a beautiful horse that HE must be the baddie?
Boo to the Smithsonian society for even helping this terrible "Hollywood History". They should not be proud. They should hang their heads in shame for the inaccuracies they committed against history. "Accurate down to the Buttons", my butt.
Here's a sum up of all the faux-pax committed in this film, so you can feel smug and intellectually snobby whilst watching it:
*Widows wore black - Charlotte Selton does not. ever. I didn't know she was MARRIED the first time I saw this film!
*Colonial women did NOT wear Sackback gowns. (Hell, Brits didn't for the longest time, either! that would be a Continental fashion. Everybody say: "Continental"...)
*Militia means: Fully. Trained. Mobile. Army. Lesser in prestige. Not skill. Militia does NOT mean: incompetent rustics with brands and torches. This is in contrast to: Regular Army. (At least they got that right)
*British Uniform Colours: Red. Blue. Green (Tavington: GREEN Dragns). WHITE "spray-on" pants. Black boots. Nice hats. Mostly Tricornes.
*Blacks (African Americans) did NOT make Gullah camps on beaches. They would have been in the Mtns.
*Blacks were NOT freed men. No matter how nice their masters.
*Mens' wigs were NICE. Not shoddy. Most all men wore wigs. As did the ladies.
*Young ladies (Anne) did not talk sauce to their elders or betters
*You do not refer to people by first name, unless it's your immediate family, or very intimate friends.
*You did not need to always call your father "father". Papa and Pa worked then, too.
*Bedrooms were UPstairs.
*They did not Troop the Colours when on the battle field.
*General Cornwallis was not nearly the old fop he is here portrayed as, but was younger than Mel Gibson by the time of the Rev War, and was beloved by his men because he fought alongside them, down on the field, in the gritty mayhem of war. Go Cornwallis.
*AND, British Great Danes' ears were and are not propped like modern-day American ones are. Their ears stay floppy. Cute doggies. Nice doggies.
Sadly, this film falls short of greatness and even coming close to semi-accurate history, for all the above listed reasons and so much more (namely that the main characters were boring, 2D fluff about whom we didn't care, even when they died).
So, kids, remember: to avoid looking like a loser, pay attention in history classes! That way, if you ever become a filmmaker, you can avoid the major pitfalls of this movie!
Oh well. At least that Colonel Tavington was dashingly handsome in his wickedness, yeah?
on May 1, 2004
There are so few movies, good or otherwise, that focus on American Revolution, that any film on the subject deserves attention. Unless it is this one. An absolutely inane mess, with so many errors, dramatic missteps, cliches, and outright lies that listing them would take two feet of page space, THE PATRIOT is the early-American equivalent of Michael Bay's PEARL HARBOR, and that isn't a compliment. Essentially a rip-off of Gibson's own BRAVEHEART, here's another of Hollywood's endless parade of tired, by-the-numbers "revenge" stories. And yet, who could've expected any better from the ding-dongs who made INDEPENENCE DAY, the single most mindless big-budget film in Hollywood history (and the competition for that title is truly stiff)? Two stars for some excellent, expensive 18th-century production design, and half-decent (but no more than half) battle scenes. Do your brain a favor and go watch John Ford's DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK instead or, for that matter, 1776, but this pseudo-epic really isn't worth the time.