How do you make an epic masterpiece about the American Revolution? You pick
two Australians to star in the lead roles, glorify the Americans, bastardize
the English, humor the French and throw in a good load of emotional turmoil
mixed with plenty of blood and gore. Then you charge into theaters right
around the 4th of July.
"The Patriot" (IMDb listing) tells the story of farmer Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), an
accomplished soldier in the French and Indian wars and now a widower with
seven children. He refuses to fight in this war against the English, haunted
by his previous experiences with armed conflict and convinced that his
responsibilities now lie with his family. Accused by his oldest son Gabriel
(Heath Ledger) of hiding behind his children, he watches helplessly as
Gabriel decides to pursue his own, idealistic goals and enlists to join the
good fight. Two years later, the war catches up to the Martins, literally
advancing into their front yard, and when Benjamin is unable to protect his
family from the wrath of the English, he abandons his convictions and joins
the militia, leading them down a bloody path of revenge towards freedom.
The "Patriot" is marked by a number of impressive performances. Gibson portrays
his character with the accomplished mix of anguish, humor, sharp wit, fierce
determination and physical agility that has catapulted him to superstardom.
But while the old formula still works nicely, it becomes quite obvious that
a new generation, in this case Australian newcomer Ledger, is getting ready
to take over. Ledger, so far best known for his role in last years
Shakespeare remake "10 Things I Hate About You," delivers a convincing
performance as Gibson's oldest son whose idealistic euphoria is shattered by
the realities of war. Another notable performance is Jason Isaacs' portrayal
of Col. William Tavington, a notorious and cruel Englishman who proves to be
his superior's worst nightmare and Martin's fiercest enemy.
Shot on location in South Carolina, the movie's cinematography perfectly captures the atmosphere of the 18th century, mastering the simplicity of
every day life as well as the complex battle scenes, the recreation of which
proved quite a challenge. With blood and gore galore, the most difficult
part was the creation of both the American and English armies, which were
superimposed by a computer program developed especially for this occasion.
The results are so convincing, it's impossible to tell who is real and who
"The Patriot" is a mesmerizing movie experience, a period masterpiece and a
heartwrenching account of the price paid by so many for the freedom of their
country. And if that doesn't do it for you, at least you get to humor the
Filmfodder Grade: A