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The Patriot

Mel Gibson stabs blasted redcoats with his pointy flag.

2000, Columbia Pictures
All Rights Reserved

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 is not.

"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 French.

Filmfodder Grade: A

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