9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2005
For most people, the American Revolution is a remote, enshrined event. There are the set pieces of Lexington, Concord, Paul Revere's ride, Valley Forge and so on.
But the war in the southern colonies was a far more vicious, partisan affair. The Loyalists - colonists remaining loyal to the British crown were numerous and many formed up military units. One battle, King's Mountain, was fought entirely between Americans, Loyalists and Patriots. "The Patriot" is a fictionalized account of events that occurred during this period. Mel Gibson is a farmer, reluctantly brought into the conflict to save his son from execution as a spy by a very nasty British Colonel, based on the real life Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, otherwise known as "The Butcher". Their conflict is a portrait of the war itself, compete with ambushes, burinings, and other atrocities.
The battle scenes, particulary Cowpens, accurately depict 18th century rules of engagement, and the costumes are authentic, right down to the buttons. The role of the French, whose alliance was crucial to winning the war is well represented. However, this is an entertainment, not a documentary and that is readily apparent. Mel Gibson is impossibly clever, noble and brave, and the fact of slavery is sanitized to the point of absurdity. Still, this movie does shed light on a unique time in American history, and is certainly worth seeing.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2004
I'll risk getting raised eyebrows from fellow cinephiles and history buffs, but "The Patriot" is one of my favorite films. It's a film that could have been a brilliant, go-down-in-history epic if not for confining itself to studio-ism, clichés, and historical inaccuracies where it could have done more.
The story of a South Carolinian family during the infamously violent and vicious Southern campaign of the American Revolution, the film is the saga of the Martin family caught in the midst of a historical shift. The film takes complicated themes that were played out constantly during the war but are often hard to grasp or forgotten today and vividly brings them to life: neighbors killing each other, families torn apart, atrocities, the use of militia, and the cost of a war that is played out on the homefront. The violence is used to numb and shock you. In the film's goriest scene (and one of it's best) we see Benjamin (Gibson) and his two young sons chase down a British squadron after tragedy befalls his family. With pure hatred and barbarity, and using the advantage of a forest he and his sons know as their home and which the British find only a foreign jungle, he slays and reduces the squadron to one man. He chases down a soldier and hacks him to pieces in a creek as his sons watch in horror. It's the sight of a grieving man trying to bring order back into his life with tactics he and militiamen around the South of both loyalties were adept at, and were readily used to wage war upon each other. This is what the film does masterfully, it renders an image of savage violence and atrocity inflicted upon a colonial population and how it affected the individuals involved.
The fact that they kill off as many characters as they do is risky, but true to the brutality and unpredictability of life and history, and gives the film the air of a true tragedy because of how much we become attached to these people (which is one reason why I have a problem with the ending). Unfortunately, the acts committed, like the film's two most emotionally gut-wrenching scenes of the burning of a church with people inside and the skirmish that follows (all breathtakingly photographed against a slate gray sky and beautiful autumn colors which only heightens the tragedy of it all), plus the massacres, torchings, and killing of prisoners, are shown as a strictly British versus American problem, where in reality the colonists were by and large the ones fighting each other in this manner. It was portrayed as far too black-and-white a dilemma, where the actual history would have been more complex and interesting. I find this frusterating because the film had already taken so many chances, such as having young boys deeply involved in the violence, harsh and tainted characters, that it would have been easy to have gone one step further. And they got the British uniforms wrong to boot. At least we get Jason Isaac's riveting and seductive performance as Tavington.
The drama of the film, where it may contain some stock scenarios, mediocre dialogue and characters, is equally witty, poignant, and effective thanks to the acting and directing. The fight scenes never bore. There are many moments where the camera finds the perfect place to watch Gabriel, without an ounce of treacle, wave goodbye to his fiancee (Heath Ledger turns in a lovely, sensitive, and entirely convincing performance as a young revolutionary/big brother but without acting like a starched shirt collar); to watch Benjamin bark an order or hug his daughter (Mel plays a great daddy), for Tavington to say something piercing, for someone to die. It's moments like these that create utterly normal, real people in the midst of turmoil.
This film brought me to another time and place amidst the trials of a breathing, aching family. It recreates the feel of the time so tangibly, it picks you up and plunks you right into the middle of a humid, violent place where tensions are heightened and you're constantly looking over your back to see if your family is safe, to check your loyalties. Despite some unfortunate writing - the useless aunt, whitewashing over slavery, the whole last 20 minutes of mindless explosions and revisionism which are a weird and painful shift from the brutal,visceral tone of the rest of the film - you get to know a lot of the characters on a very personal level and we begin to understand the fine lines between freedom and loyalty, taking risks or managing the threat, priorities and principles. When Benjamin doesn't want to support a war because of his family or see his sons go to fight you feel how desperate he is,but you also understand Gabriel's youthful idealism and urgency and his love for his wife (although she's fairly annoying) and his cause. We see how feelings for family, country, one's past, and enemy intermingle and how it becomes one big tangled confused smashed gory mess.
The film is probably one of the best looking films out there, with stunning cinematography showcasing gorgeous Spanish moss, multicolored skies, mist, twilight, swamps. Cinematography - and production design - use the natural landscape and the period as a living part of the film's setting and just pulls us into it, help create that world, and serve to enhance much of the dramatic material. Top it off with John Williams' score which evokes the Revolution and the era and the human drama of it all.
Although "The Patriot" isn't as masterful as it easily could have been, it's still a film worth seeing for everything it does well, which is a lot. Despite problems, this is how history should be treated, as a vivid, emotional, palpable story - a story - about people that is as thrilling and gut-wrenching as it was, and not merely a dry academic lesson. I would love to see other films pick up where "The Patriot" left off, take the initiative to continue and build upon what this film did so beautifully and to succeed where it didn't. Film can treat us to a different and similar world where we can attempt to understand the thrills and the woes, the joys and sorrows of the time and fate of those who lived their lives out before us.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2006
First of, The Patriot itself is a great movie with a captivating story...no doubt did it make an interesting story around the events of the revolutionary war (And a partly true story at that)...However, If you ALREADY have The Patriot on DVD...you probably don't want to pop $15 over for this. Why? At only 10 extra minutes (Some scenes are extended by a minute, some have a few seconds added here or there), it's not much of a leap. It's not like they took all of the deleted scenes from the actual first DVD and threw them in. But, if you have seen "The Patriot" before and want it on DVD...why not go for this? This is a nice edition to your collection. But if you already have The Patriot...it's best avoid this. As for me, I used to own the original, but lost it and stumbled across this, and figured "Why not". I'm happy to have it, but learned if I still had my original and bought this...I would be wondering why I did.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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!
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2004
This entertaining and inspiring film offers an insightful portrait of the era of the American Revolution, from the perspective of one family caught up in its effects and circumstances in South Carolina starting in 1776, then mostly 1780-81. Mel Gibson portrays Benjamin Martin, a reluctant hero whose veteran war experiences have left him somewhat haunted. Though a fictional person, his character is an amalgam of several real Patriots, including Thomas Sumter and Andrew Pickens, who rejoined the fight after their Plantations were burned by the British; Brig. General Daniel Morgan, who employed militia as a decoy in battle like is portrayed in the film, and mostly Francis Marion (The Swamp Fox), known for surviving gruesome missions in the French and Indian War and his effective hit and run tactics in the Revolutionary War. His likable rebel leader recruits locals into a militia and scores a few underdog successes disrupting the occupying British operations.
The film is beautifully photographed and has a score composed by John Williams (Star Wars, Saving Private Ryan). The careful attention to period language, names, clothing, and customs adds authenticity to the story. The main antagonist is the snide and brutal British Colonel William Tavington, based on actual cavalry leader Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, who earned a fierce and ruthless reputation in battle in South Carolina. There is much to show how the war affects the Martin family. Young daughter Susan, sullen and almost mute after seeing her brother killed and their Plantation burned, at one point cries out to her father that she would say anything if it would keep him from going back to the fighting, in an almost heartbreaking scene. Another memorable scene is where the Reverend Oliver (Rene Auberjonois) and Benjamin's son Gabriel Martin (Heath Ledger) attempt to call for the ethical treatment of prisoners when some surrendering British are shot in a chaotic battle skirmish, imploring "We are better men than that!" to his father and comrades. Gabriel enters the local church at one point and he, with the help of his childhood friend Anne Howard's (Lisa Brenner) impassioned speech, rally the people to the defense of their town and country.
The film has many engaging and entertaining action sequences, and these build toward a final battle, which is dramatically and graphically depicted. The historical accuracy is not what it could be, but the story is told well, and captures the spirit of the Revolution in a memorable and inspiring way. Note that it is 2 Australian Actors and a German Director bringing American Patriotism to life here, but they do such a good job, in a great film that is watchable and inspiring again and again.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2000
This film is quite entertaining, and you will not believe how fast the time goes by, but this story has been told before. There are many parallels between this film and Braveheart. It pulls your heartstrings and also makes you stand up and cheer. It features family taken from Mel, and Mel's revenge. There is plenty of blood and guts, but not overkill. The film does a nice job of showing just how much damage a lead ball can do to a human being. I am a fan of Mel Gibson's work, and based on that, it is a film I recommend adding to your collection. The supporting cast is spectacular, and really make this an enjoyable movie.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2001
I have heard so much debate back and forth about The Patriot that I don't know where to start. While it is true that there are many historical inaccuracies in this film, and it does tend to have a strong anti-Brit feel, AND it runs way too long at over two hours, I can't help but love to watch this movie! It is one of the best depictions of the Revolutionary War era in recent times and I find the many horrifically realistic battle scenes fascinatingly re-watchable. And I love that tomahawk! Not since Last of the Mohicans have we seen a workout as when Benjamin Martin takes out half an infantry company with his trusty old tomahawk. While I too found it annoying that so many inaccuracies found their way into this Hollywoodized re-telling of an American legend, church burnings, free "slaves", and "Green" Dragoon coats aside, you can't help but love the scene where Martin dupes British General Lord Cornwallis out of hanging his militiamen or the over-the-top confrontation between Martin and dashing but villianous Colonel Tavington. There have been so many things said about the basis for Ben Martin (real-life South Carolina patriot Francis Marion) and Tavington that I found it amusing to read some of the comments below. Francis Marion was indeed a slave-owning southern plantation owner who fought Indians and was probably, like other men of his time, a racist bigot. Needless to say, the stories about his raping slave girls and hunting Indians for fun may be true, or may more likely be attributed to Revolutionary War era Tory propaganda that is passed off as fact even today. That is the wonder of history! We may never know what the real Marion was like as a man, but we do know that he fought to make this country a new nation. Colonel Tavington is of course based on British Colonel Banastre Tarleton who, while never massacring civilians or dying on the battlefield, did earn himself a nasty reputation as a butcher on the part of the rebels for his zeal in cutting down surrendering troops at Camden. If nothing else, I hope that this movie will at least inspire an interest in a great period of history and perhaps lead to even more enjoyable and accurate Revolutionary War movies.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2001
There have been far too few films made about the American Revolution. Given this, "The Patriot" ought to be commended just for showing a period of American history that has been virtually ignored by Hollywood. Basically, I've found that people who view this type of film fall into two groups: those who expect near-perfect historical accuracy and love to "nitpick" such films apart; and those who go see such films for the entertainment they provide and leave the history (as they should) to a good history book. If you fall into the former category then you probably hated (or will hate, if you've never seen it) this film, as it's only loosely based on actual historical events, and often wildly exaggerates the "real" history it depicts. On the other hand, if you fall (as I do) into the last category, then you'll find "The Patriot" to be a beautifully filmed, well-acted and action-filled war film that's as good as anything that was shown in 2000. The fact is that Hollywood, with VERY rare exceptions, often takes liberties with historical events, which is why movies like "The Patriot" should only serve to encourage people to read more about events like the American Revolution, and not simply rely on the movie itself for their views of history. Some people have accused this film of being a ripoff of "Braveheart", but if so it's a darn good ripoff! The battle scenes are among the best and most accurate ever filmed - cannonballs are seen to bounce along the ground and crash into troops like bowling pins, and the battlefield tactics shown in the movie are faithful to actual Revolutionary War battles. Where "The Patriot" does fall short in the history department is it's politically-correct view of slavery, as the "slaves" on Mel Gibson's plantation aren't slaves at all, but actually happily "hired" help. Addtionally, the British forces depicted in the movie commit horrific acts that the real British forces never committed in the war, such as burning down an entire American village with the villagers trapped inside a church, which is also deliberately set ablaze by the ruthless British commander. Although the British did hang suspected American spies from trees in village squares to intimidate other villagers, and although they did burn down people's homes and occassionally shoot American soldiers who tried to surrender in battle, there is no recorded instance of the British deliberately burning colonists alive. The film's plot is simple: Mel Gibson plays Benjamin Martin, a "hero" of the brutal French and Indian War whose bloody exploits against the French led him to give up fighting and settle down on a peaceful farm in the Carolina backcountry. By the start of the Revolution he is a widower with four children. He refuses to fight in the war and proclaims neutrality, but his enthusiastic oldest son Gabriel (Heath Ledger) joins General Washington's Army over his father's objections. When the fighting finally reaches the Carolina backcountry, Martin is forced into the war when an arrogant and ruthless British cavalry commander, Colonel Tavington, burns down his farm and kills one of his younger sons. Martin forms a band of guerilla fighters who strike at the British from the Carolina woods and swamps and vanish before the British can catch them (earning him the nickname "The Ghost" from the frightened British troops). Eventually, Martin and Tavington meet in battle with, apparently, the entire future of the Revolution (and the United States) at stake. My chief problem with this film has less to do with its' historical inaccuracies than with its length. Like "Braveheart", this film simply goes on for too long, and the producers could easily have cut a half-hour to 45 minutes of film without missing a beat. But, overall, "The Patriot" is a great action film about a much-neglected era of American history. And if it encourages the viewer to read more about this period, then so much the better.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2004
This movie, starring Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, and Jason Isaacs is set in South Carolina during the American Revolution. Gibson is a widowed daddy resistant to joining the fight due to personal demons from his own battle experiences, and Ledger plays his war hungry son. As the plot unfolds, we watch as Gibson's character is pulled into the fight through personal tragedy and a thirst for vengeance.
Jason Isaacs, who plays William Tavington, is a bad man. He kills little kids, he burns down churches holding entire villages within, and he has an unnatural interest in ruining Mel Gibson's life. You would think that an officer in the King's army would have better things to do than nurse a vendetta against a single family when surely there are more pressing issues at hand with 13 entire colonies revolting.And herein lies the problem with this movie...
The characters, overall, are interesting, and the story is a fun, flag waving melodrama, but Tavington is not the most believable of characters, nor are his motives. Even his own people dislike him, and while one can get lost in his deliciously played out evil, he should have saved it for a role in which is is trying to take over the universe because his intensity is way over the top.
On the other hand, Gibson's portrayal as a man reluctant to fight, and initially unwilling to give up his children to the war, is rather realistic. Many people in the colonies were reluctant to fight the mother country, even if they did agree with the ideals of the revolution! After all, the American Revolution was not a war we were supposed to win.
Overall, this is a good, watchable movie with beautiful cinematography, great costumes, memorable characters, and a lot of action. Look for the cannonball that severs the Redcoat's leg...ew. It goes from a pretty realistic premise to melodrama, but it's entertaining enough if you get past that.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I'm not going to waste your time retelling , for the umpteenth time, what "The Patriot" is about, or its inaccuracies. Most of the reviewers before me have done a fine (and sometimes not so fine) job doing that already. Instead, I will explain why I feel this is a very good movie and would make a worthwhile addition to your DVD library.
When a movie is historically accurate ("Gods and Generals," for instance), it gets panned because of the lack of political correctness, or it's too slow, or overly long, etc. When it isn't historically accurate ("The Patriot"), it still gets panned for not being historically accurate. You can't win!
I found The Patriot to be an engulfing movie filled with suspense, excitement, humor, drama, and, dare I say it, enough historical accuracy for the viewer to get an understanding of the time and events in which this movie takes place.
I guess what appeals to me most in this movie is the fact that they do not attempt to bring the late 20th century mores and morals (or lack of) into the 18th century, as too many of today's Hollywood flicks make it a point to do ...I had to laugh at the fact that these liberal do-gooders were so upset that there were children in "The Patriot" who actually were allowed to brandish a (gasp!) musket! C'mon people! This is supposed to be a movie representing life in the late 18th century Revolutionary War time. Kids with guns was as common and accepted as kids with skateboards today - more, in fact. These revisionist historians would prefer to 'Disney - fy' our history and remove any truths they deem politically incorrect.
There are wonderful examples why this movie is slightly above many others when it comes to the period in time it is attempting to revise. For example, the old custom of 'bundling,' where one would lie in the same bed as their sweetheart fully clothed and sometimes restrained as to ensure no funny business could happen, takes place in this movie, as does some of the archaic language from the time period, used in the dialogue ("take me in his stead!").
It's these sort of subtle historical gems that helps me to overlook the inaccuracies of the battle dress - not that I am happy about that inaccuracy at all. But, unless you get a truly passionately produced movie ...we sometimes have to, unfortunately, settle for a bit less. But less is not always bad.
One day, I hope someone does the Revolutionary War right and produces/directs the ultimate movie about the birth of our great nation...But, until then, "The Patriot" and "The Crossing" will have to do.