Review Date: June 21, 2000
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer: Robert Rodat
Producers: Dean Devlin, Mark Gordon, Gary Levinsohn
Mel Gibson as Benjamin Martin
Heath Ledger as Gabriel Martin
Joely Richardson as Charlotte
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.