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The Patriot (2000)
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Review Date: June 21, 2000
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer: Robert Rodat
Producers: Dean Devlin, Mark Gordon, Gary Levinsohn
Actors:
Mel Gibson as Benjamin Martin
Heath Ledger as Gabriel Martin
Joely Richardson as Charlotte
Plot:
A widowed father of seven children is suddenly pulled back into the savagery of battle when his family is threatened by the American Revolution. With his oldest son by his side, the father reluctantly joins the fight against the British Redcoats and hopes to bring about the freedom of their nation.
Critique:
A slow-starting film, which presents an interesting story, some entertaining battle sequences and a flawless representation of the times, ultimately succeeds with an emotional connection to its characters, but not without its sporadic lags. Surprised was I to find myself tearing up in some spots of this movie, with numerous comfort moments needed for the Mrs. as well. In fact, much unlike the GLADIATOR, this film manages to pack many moments of emotion into its web of war, and further unlike the former epic, does so without breaking any major ground with any of its battle sequences. Mind you, the last 30 minutes of the film are definitely rock-solid, with an all-out attack scenario sure to have most glued to their seats. But the core of the film is centered more around its characters, with Mel juggling the state of his family, sins from his past and the brutality of war, while his son, the effective Heath Ledger, rides along with his idealistic deliberations of honor and pursuit of justice. I liked the people in this film, they seemed real to me and I ultimately cared about what happened to each and every one of them.

Having said that, the film did begin to spread its emotions a little too thin at some point, at which I wondered whether or not it would be able to maintain an even balance with the film's action. But it did indeed, with various small but carefully orchestrated battles spreading their way along to the major one in the end. I found a lot of this war unsettling, only because I wasn't used to this face-to-face combat, with lines of folks just standing in front of one another and firing away. Very strange. But ultimately, the direction and feel of the film just won me over and completely immersed was I in its time. And that's saying a lot, because I personally am not a fan of period films. Gibson kicked arse in the lead, with enough genuine pain, anguish, revenge and pure adrenaline pumping through his performance to demand your attention. But the film is really taken to another level with the aid of a tangible enemy, a villain who in this case is played to a tee by Jason Isaacs, slashing and burning everything in sight. A delicious part handled masterfully by the actor transports us from a seat among the audience, to a willing contestant and rooter for the home team. In the end, this is not a "fun" movie by any stretch of the imagination. It's bloody as heck, legs are chopped off, people get killed left and right, the struggle seems to go on forever, and very few (but timely) moments of comedic relief ever break through. But in the end, the sense of relief and unburden is all worth it, with the film's best cinematic moments saved for its last precious half hour.

A long arduous journey which definitely won't fulfill all appetites certainly does a good job of representing a frenetic time and place in history, presenting us with several well-developed characters and offering us a handful of exciting battle scenes. It might have benefited from a little trim and definitely provided one too many bleak moments for my taste, but all in all, a solid effort for everyone involved.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian
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