Mel Gibson is Benjamin Martin, an embittered soldier leading a merry band of men against a dastardly English army. Sound familiar? Well, swap Scotland for Colonial America and you'll have a pretty good idea what to expect over the next 175 minutes of this Extended Cut of “The Patriot”. Directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day & Godzilla), the most pro-American German ever, “The Patriot” sees widower Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), a former war hero who has given up on the idea of fighting. He has a family now, 7 children (just as in real life for Gibson), and would prefer negotiation instead of taking up arms. His eldest son, Gabriel (Heath Ledger) has other ideas and signs up for battle against the Redcoats. Unfortunately for Martin the War of Independence arrives on his doorstep and he tends to the wounded on both sides. However, the vile Redcoat, Colonel Tavington (a perfectly evil Jason Isaacs) ends up ruthlessly killing Martins second-eldest son Thomas. As a result Martin snaps and decides to fight in order to avenge the death of his son.
He rounds up a group of militia and with a little help from the French in the shape of Jean Villeneuve (Tcheky Karyo), they begin to pick off Redcoats when they can through ambush and guerrilla tactics. Ultimately we know that revenge is all consuming and the movie will boil down to a showdown between just two people - Martin and Tavington.
This is a strictly by the numbers war movie that ticks all the right boxes and unfortunately relies too much upon clichés rather than focusing on character development. We have the hero and avenging father, the nasty English villain, the token black slave fighting side by side with the white man. I could go on and on. Historically the facts, like in Braveheart, (which was a film, whilst being half-Scottish that did very little for me) have been exaggerated with the English painted as nothing more than savages on the battlefield and the vital aid given by the French is mostly glossed over. Despite this, I have to admit I mostly enjoyed “The Patriot” for what it was, an entertaining if overlong, blockbuster war movie. The cinematography is beautiful and sweeping with truly epic and bloodthirsty battle scenes. Although starting on a very serious manner, matters get lighter with the assembly of the militia and the big con of Lord Cornwallis (Tom Wilkinson) by Martin as they attempt to get back some their men imprisoned by the Redcoats. As I mentioned earlier, character development is kept to a minimum, with some fine actors wasted in their roles, namely Chris Cooper as Colonel Harry Burwell and Joely Richardson as Charlotte, Martins late wife's sister. A subplot concerning Martin and Charlotte is touched upon but never fully realised. Tcheky Karyo on the other hand is always fun to watch, and plays the sardonic Jean Villeneuve, fighting the English along with the militia, very well indeed as he hopefully awaits his countrymen.
There are two ways to look at “The Patriot”; if you want an intelligent piece commenting on the American War of Independence, then take a look at the History Channel, however if you want a grand, blockbusting epic with the Hollywood payoff then you will enjoy this immensely.
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