The problem with history is it isn’t pretty. It isn’t politically correct, nor sensitive to the Zeitgeist (look it up) of the society examining it. Because of this, Hollywood in recent years has steered clear of movies depicting American History. You show cowboys, you offend Indians. You show Southerners during the Civil War, you offend Blacks. You show Pearl Harbor, you upset the Japanese (just you wait until the new film PEARL HARBOR comes out), and now, you show the American Revolution and the BRITISH ARE OFFENDED. Well, no kidding! We beat them! We defeated the British Empire!
Sorry, I digress but let me be very clear here – there is a concerted effort afoot to destroy this film. It’s from certain crazed special interest groups who are doing everything they can to rip this movie apart. Why? Because it has a patriotic viewpoint that is unpopular these days. It has become hip to spout Marxist rhetoric and say that the values of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and all the stuff created by those dead white guys is a fraud. It’s not the land of the free or the home of the brave, but land of the put upon and the oppressed. Yeah, well, if you feel that way you should thank your stars you’re sitting in a country that lets you say it as you sit in your comfy chair in front of a two thousand dollar piece of equipment and whine about how unfair your life is. But those of you who feel this way won’t care what I say anyway and won’t like this movie either. So this review isn’t for you. It’s for the rest of us.
Beautifully filmed, wonderfully acted, and extremely violent, THE PATRIOT attempts to tell the story of one family during the American Revolutionary War. The Revolution was a hotly contested issue with only about one third of the people siding against King George, so when Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) gets a request to join a local Militia and fight, he declines. Benjamin’s wife is dead, he has six children to support, and he has bad memories of the part he played in the French and Indian War, so he has no interest in returning to battle. Unfortunately, Benjamin’s son, Gabriel (Heath Ledger) is old enough to join, and is angry that a father who believes in freedom is unwilling to fight for it. I won’t go into too much more about the story, except to say that something terrible happens that changes Benjamin’s mind. And as Benjamin fights against the Red Coats (Education Alert: The British), he constantly battles within himself about the “wisdom” of war. Far from an empty-headed, chest-thumping experience, THE PATRIOT tackles the brutality of war along with the necessity. The film also grapples with the issue of human weakness and courage – why will some decent people do terrible things for a higher ideal, while others simply run away? There are no easy answers and thankfully the film doesn’t attempt to give us any.
The acting is wonderful with Mel Gibson giving the best performance of his career. The emotional drama is interspersed with sweet and slyly funny scenes, allowing the audience to both recover and become more involved with the characters. Yes, there are scenes of children with guns but let me remind you – there were no grocery stores then. If you wanted to eat you shot it yourself and if your parents died (which was often) and you were alone, you had to know how to take care of yourself. Also, in both the Revolutionary and the Civil War, people we would consider children fought alongside their parents. That’s how it was. You want pretty, rent a Disney movie.
The Revolutionary War was won mostly by the local militias, made up of farmers and poor people. They used guerilla war tactics against the British, while our military, which in most cases had British trained Officers, still marched toward the enemy in rows, aimed, and yelled, “FIRE.” Not the best way to fight an enormous army that simply bused in more soldiers as thousands were killed. The British tried to disarm the Colonists in 1773, and if they had succeeded, there would have been no militias, much less a United States of America. That’s why the second amendment was written – not so that someone could go shoot a duck, but so that the average American citizen could defend himself and his country as an individual. Because after all, America is a country based on individuals who ran from governments where power was held only in the hands of a few. End of history lesson.
I realize that this review is more of a rant than most and I’ve veered off the subject of the film somewhat, but it is the powerful message of THE PATRIOT that has caused me to do so. You can watch the film without experiencing all that I have and love it. And if you’re from another country, you can learn something about our history while becoming involved in the well-written screenplay and wonderful acting. But as for the rest of you, don’t be scared off by what you hear even if you disagree with me on certain points – judge the movie for yourself. After all, having the ability to do so is what America’s all about. Right?