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Peaceful farmer Benjamin Martin is driven to lead the Colonial Militia during the American Revolution when a sadistic British officer murders his son.
There were two reasons I wanted to revisit this otherwise panned but commercial hit of a film.
#1 - I wanted to see one of Heath Ledger's earliest works and the first film he did that captured the attention of Hollywood audiences.
#2 - There was a Canadian film in 2008 called Passchendaele that had a similar setup story as The Patriot and I wanted to see how they compared. In hindsight these were two completely different stories with the exception that the two leads go back to war to project and attempt to save their loved one from dying.
I don't think Mel Gibson has pulled off a better performance that in The Patriot. He's really good in it. And so are the war scenes and really the entire film. IF this was a movie based purely on fiction.
But The Patriot gets seen through a different set of eyes because it is based on some historical facts of how the Independent States of America in the 1700s eventually became the United States of America. A War occured and the underdogs one.
The underdogs being the American Revolution, who wanted independence and peace from the British Colonies. This war was the beginning for this still really young country who has really made a name for itself in recent centuries. And has become an extreme power and influence with the rest of the world. And it all started when they stopped wanting to listen to the British.
Of course this is a very gray world but Hollywood and Producer/Director Ronald Emmerich choose to tell a very black and white story about a father of seven with past regrets who becomes a very influential solder in this very important war. And as in every war, when a person wins he/she also loses a great deal as well too.
It's the 1700s and most afluent white familes had blacks as slaves. But not Mel Gibson's family! Of course the blacks chose to be with his family and were free to go anytime. I guess you still need to tell a story set in the 1700s with our 2000s mentality attached. Meaning that Hollywood thought that no modern audience member could root for a main character who had slaves.
Then they took it an extra mile by having a black soldier in Mel's Militia army who was free to go anytime! But of course he stayed to fight for the independance of America. But why? So he could be a slave again and his kids could be slaves too for the next 100 years? Doesn't really make sense does it?
And in any War film you need an enemy. And it's always the side you start with that will be the good side. So the enemy in The Patriot is the British. And boy are they some nasty people. A General (played by Tom Wilkinson) who will kill people in cold blood no matter what rules he's breaking in order to win. And a Colonol who kills Mel's kid for no reason other that he was in his way.
Or course storywise that is when the 1st act ends as Mel wakes up and seeks revenge. Mel's revenge equals good things for the Aemrican Revolution! I wonder if the United States would of existed if his kid didn't get killed by that nasty British soldier with the bad teeth?????? The world would be a different place.
The Patriot is good film in many ways and bad in many more ways. It's a fun film but not the type of movie that History students should be watching.
And Heath Ledger just has that spark that can't be taught in any acting class. The camera loves him and he loves it back. A fine actor who built up a nice 8 year Hollywood career before his unfortunate passing. The role he plays in The Patriot has everything an actor loves: boy becomes man, man rebels against father, man falls in love, man becomes leader, man kills another man, man saves another man's life, man gets married, man loses virginity, man fights for something bigger than man, man.....well I don't want to give the rest away as there is more.
As a filmmaker, I learned a lot from watching The Patriot. As of this writing, it's early 2009 and the industry has changed a lot since this movie was being made 10 years ago. I'm sure they would of went a whole lot more CGI if they were making The Patriot now. And perhaps that's what's good about the filmmaking in this film. They didn't have the 'toys' that they have today so they had to use their creative minds a bit more. Terrific war sequences in this film. It was a horrible time and man suffered a great deal during wars as the pain must of been unbearable. And they were really able to show that to us and make us feel.
But why do they have to change certain things to attempt to appeal to the masses? I've always felt that Hollywood tends to underestimate people. So what if Mel Gibson has slaves? In hindsight now with what he went through in his personal life, it would probably of worked really well.