Mel's Patriot Games
Having returned home a hero from the French-Indian war, Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson - Payback) has settled in South Carolina to raise his 7 children following the loss of their mother. He has no interest in being part of the war which is now going on against Great Britain and wishes his eldest boys, Gabriel (Heath Ledger - 10 Things I Hate About You) and Thomas (Gregory Smith), felt the same except they don't and cannot wait to enlist in the Continental Army. But Benjamin's conviction is tested when he comes face to face with the brutal Colonel William Tavington (Jason Isaacs) of the British dragoon as one of his family are killed in front of his eyes and his home torched. It leads Benjamin on a journey of revenge as he helps lead the militia against the British.
Roland Emmerich's "The Patriot" is to the American War of Independence what "Pearl Harbor" is to World War II except "The Patriot" is a lot more entertaining. Now if you don't know what I mean by that then "The Patriot" is another one of those movies which have taken an event from the history books and turned it into a popcorn movie, ignoring facts in favour of action, humour as well as some romance. Some might find it disappointing that "The Patriot" fails to be authentic in its interpretation of the historic events and characterisations but in truth it shouldn't because this is a movie which was always about entertainment and watching Mel Gibson staging what at times seems like a one man mission to destroy the British army. And when you accept "The Patriot" for what it is it works, it delivers excitement, humour and some action.
What this means is that "The Patriot" delivers in many ways a classic story structure with the hero having decided not to be involved in fighting anymore only to be drawn back in to the fight when it becomes personal. I say classic story structure as many a western from the 1950s and 60s featured cowboys who wanted to avoid conflict only get drawn back into it, but with "The Patriot" that whole classic storyline is not so much drawn out but certainly embellished so all those familiar elements such as the romantic subplot isn't just filler or there purely because it was expected. But before I go on I will say that whilst embellished with attempts to seem to explore father son relationships this isn't deep at all.
As such a lot of what "The Patriot" ends up about is the acting and the action. On the acting front you could say that Mel Gibson does a good job playing the movie's hero but at the same time you could also say that he is playing Benjamin Martin very much in the same manner of William Wallace as he becomes the leaded of the Militia who not only wants revenge but is smarter than the enemy. But you also have the supporting cast and in fairness they all play their parts well but at the same time you get a sense that some were cast to add to the movie's appeal and as such you have Heath Ledger and Gregory Smith to appeal to a younger audience whilst Joely Richardson just has to stare into the lens and she pretty much has you hypnotised.
Then there is that action and "The Patriot" doesn't pull any punches when it comes to delivering blood spurting scenes of brutality. In truth it is shocking when it comes to the first scene in which we witness Benjamin take to a small British troop with an axe but it is such an action packed scene it has you enthralled including the disturbingly brutal climax. And that is not the worst of it because there are a lot of in your face action scenes through out the movie some more suggestive such as the burning of a church containing trapped town's folk. Yet at the same time the action sometimes has a humorous side from the cunning of Martin to trick the British into releasing his men who have been captured to a scene involving a cannonball which whilst shocking makes you laugh.
What this all boils down to is that "The Patriot" is a popcorn movie which like so many other movies takes a period of history and delivers a story full of action, humour and some romance. Basically if you saw "Braveheart" and enjoyed it for the action the chances are you will love "The Patriot" just as much.