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Heroes and Villains
6/10 "The Patriot", the story of an American farmer who fights in the War of Independence, is sometimes used, together with "Braveheart", as evidence of a supposed anti-British prejudice on the part of Mel Gibson. This is perhaps unfair to Gibson, who has gone on record as supporting the ties between Australia and the British monarchy (hardly the stance of a Brit-hating bigot). Although "Braveheart", which he produced and directed, was very much Gibson's own pet project, he was neither the producer, director or scriptwriter of "The Patriot". Indeed, he was not even first choice to play the lead. The producers originally wanted Harrison Ford who turned the part down, reportedly because he felt that the script turned the American Revolution into the story of one man's quest for revenge.2 years ago
Because of its anti-British stance, the film was badly received in Britain. One newspaper accused it of blackening the character of the British officer Banastre Tarleton who served as the inspiration for the villainous Colonel Tavington. One commentator went so far as to say that it was the sort of film that the Nazis might have made about the American Revolution had they won World War II. Unlike some of my fellow-countrymen, I was not too worried about this aspect of the film. The total death toll in the American War of Independence was remarkably low, not only by modern standards but even by the standards of other wars of this era, such as the Napoleonic War. Nevertheless, in every war ever fought there have been crimes on both sides, and the War of Independence was no exception. (The rebels could be as ruthless as the British, but none of their atrocities are shown in this film). Some of the deeds attributed to Tavington may be fictitious, such as the church-burning scene, but in real life Tarleton had a well-deserved reputation for brutality, and was not only loathed by the American colonists but also distrusted by his own side. In the film the British commander Lord Cornwallis is shown as outwardly gentlemanly and honourable, but prepared secretly to countenance Tavington's methods. In reality, Cornwallis wanted to have Tarleton court-martialled; Tarleton was only saved by his influential connections.
I did, however, have some reservations about the way these events were portrayed. It was originally intended to make the film about Francis Marion, a real-life figure. Unfortunately Marion, although undoubtedly courageous and a skilled guerrilla leader, was also a slave-owner (as any landowner of substance in 1770s South Carolina would have been) and was therefore deemed unworthy to be the hero of a modern blockbuster (even though a TV series about him was made in the fifties). His exploits, therefore, are credited to a fictitious "Benjamin Martin". The slavery issue could have been avoided by moving the action to, say, New England, but instead the film gives us a wholly unrealistic picture of race relations in the period. The black workers on Martin's land are all free men, and black and white live together in harmony, with black soldiers willingly fighting alongside whites in the Continental Army. This sort of dishonest, idealised portrayal of slavery was at one time common in films like "Gone with the Wind", but I thought that it had died out with the growth of the Civil Rights movement.
(Incidentally, a reason why so many Southerners supported the revolutionaries was that slavery had been declared illegal in Britain itself in 1771 and they feared that the British Parliament would eventually legislate to ban it in the colonies. Needless to say, there is no mention of this attitude in the film. In later life Tarleton became MP for Liverpool, and a vehement defender of slavery. In this, if in nothing else, he and Marion had something in common).
My other reservation about the film's political stance is similar to Ford's. The film probably concentrated so heavily on British brutality because it is difficult to interest a modern audience, even an American audience, in the actual reasons why the war was fought. It is easy to make out an intellectual case for the principle of "no taxation without representation", which had been part of British constitutional thought since at least the Civil War in the 1640s. It is much less easy to justify the spilling of blood in defence of that principle, and Martin, scarred by his experiences in the French and Indian Wars, is originally shown as a pacifist, unwilling to fight or to support the Declaration of Independence which he believes will lead to war. His son Gabriel, however, joins the Continental Army, but is wrongly accused of being a spy and threatened with execution. Tavington, believing Martin to be a rebel sympathiser, burns down his home and murders another son, Thomas. Martin is forced to take up arms to defend his family and then forms a guerrilla band which he leads against the British. Despite the title of the film, however, Martin is not really motivated by patriotism; he seems less a patriot than a pacifist who has abandoned his principles in order to seek revenge.
The film is attractively photographed, although I felt that it sometimes showed a sanitised, prettified version of eighteenth-century life. In some ways it reminded me of "The Last Samurai", another visually attractive epic flawed by a dishonest approach to history and by excessive length, although I would rate it slightly higher, largely because Gibson makes a more commanding and impressive epic hero than does Tom Cruise. From the viewpoint of anyone without patriotic preconceptions, it can be seen simply as an exciting (if overlong) adventure film- my wife, who is not British by birth, was cheering on Martin and booing Tavington. Nevertheless, its approach to history never gets beyond a simplified story of heroes and villains. 6/10
Humiliating to Americans and an insult to those who fought in the American Revolution.
1/10 WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD2 years ago
The Patriot is an indescribably bad movie that sinks to the lowest form of film making for a quick buck. Mel Gibson has gone and cloned his biggest success (Braveheart) in hopes of duplicating its success. The Patriot, like Braveheart, is a completely ahistorical exploitation of real events in which costumes and sets will be done as accurately as possible, but the actual events are distorted in order to make it some kind of period piece version RAMBO. The main difference is that Braveheart was at least a good movie.
One review said that the film had 'tremendous originality', well, if you thought that The Patriot was original, this is obviously your first film. This is bursting at the seams with cliches. Let me list them for you:
1: War scarred family man who wants nothing to do with the present conflict. The American Revolution instead of the Scottish Rebellon.
2: A British villain who does everything that a screenwriter can think of to look as evil as possible. This particular one is so cartoonish he could rival the Terminator.
3: A murdered family member abruptly forces our peaceful family man into the conflict. The one in this film is a barely developed son figure who you don't really care about when he dies because you didn't get to know him too well.
4: Children who are somehow able to outsmart trained redcoats (?).
5: Lots of villains who all have terrible aim so as not to let our hero get hurt. Most of the stunts Gibson pulls in this film would get anyone killed instantly.
6: An estranged family member our hero must reconcile in a teary, pointless moment which is there for the sole purpose of tugging at the heart strings.
7: Lots of cute little kids to make us go "aaaaaaawwwwwwwwww" and cry when one of them dies.
8: A black man who fights with South Carolina for the cause of freedom. Does it make sense to anyone that a black man would ever fight with a slave state?
9: A lone racist guy who hates the black man (only one racist guy in 1776 South Carolina?). He predictably makes friends with the black man in an abrupt and incredibly fake moment that made me want to vomit.
10: A gun happy priest
11: A doomed teen romance that is grossly uninteresting.
12: A utopian slave society that lives on a beach and takes in Mel Gibson's clan (?) even though these same slaves were hauled off by the Redcoats earlier in the movie.
13: Eight or nine brutal murders of friends and family members of our hero because the director and screenwriter have no idea how else to create dramatic tension.
14: The climactic fight scene in which the Terminator villain is killed by our hero and single handedly wins an important battle of the American Revolution (the battle is never indentified).
Allow me to recount my other problems with The Patriot: The battle scenes are rediculous and totally predictable. Mel Gibson somehow single handedly kills 20 men,mostly hand-to-hand combat with the help of his sons who conveniently have the aim of expert snipers. The final battle is extremely boring because the Americans are winning for most of the battle. The characters are so black and white its almost laughable. The film does not have one scene where the musical score is not roaring and trying to make sure you feel only what it wants you to. The film treats its cliches as if they are original and profound. The British are depicted as Nazi swine who kill everything that moves while the Americans are all helpless farmers who have to fight.
The Patriot is boring, pretentious and manipulative. Avoid at all costs.
Overall Grade: F
Engrossing Revolutionary War tale, though not historical
7/10 Being Canadian, I probably know fewer details of the Revolutionary War than the average U.S. viewer, but note that many seem absolutely outraged at the historical untruths of this movie. When I watched it, I personally found it quite captivating but always have enough sense not to get my history from Hollywood. Since my viewing, I've looked up some info and note various inaccuracies such as misplaced characters, exaggeration of British atrocities, inaccurate torching of a church with townsfolk inside being burned alive, and depiction of American owned slaves being freed to serve in the Continental Army. (Apparently, it was the British who promised to free them if they joined their forces, but later reneged.) My apologies if my facts aren't straight.2 years ago
It's the FICTIONAL story of a widowed South Carolina farmer, Benjamin Martin, who is disgusted by his past supposedly heroic deeds during the French Indian Wars. He has resolved to avoid participation when the Colonies revolt against Britain and stay home to protect his seven children. However, he witnesses atrocities against his two older sons, Gabriel and Thomas, by the cruel British Colonel Tavington. Gabriel, the oldest, has joined the battle against the Redcoats early on, been captured, and sentenced by Tavington to hang. Thomas, the second son, attempts to free Gabriel as he is being taken away, only to be killed by Tavington right in front of his father. This forces the reluctant Benjamin into the fray, organizing a local militia group of farmers and ex Indian fighters who will tie up the British until the French arrive.
Mel Gibson gives a moving portrayal of the father who is driven into a battle he sought to avoid in order to protect his family from the British. For me, his personal and family story is the essence of the tale. Just as one would expect, Benjamin Martin comes across as very sympathetic and heroic. Apparently this character is sort of a composite of possibly three different real men of that era.
The film has wonderful period costumes, though also (like Gibson's earlier Braveheart) more than enough violence for my taste. However, it did bring to life for me the Revolutionary War, unfortunately in a purely fictional rather than historical way. Though I enjoyed this picture, it seems to have taken a lot of liberties with the truth. The movie should therefore be considered strictly as entertainment, not a history lesson.
Some of you need to lighten up, this movie is good!
8/10 I am getting a kick out of the nasty reviews some of you have given! I never realized there were so many experts on the Revolutionary War era, its events, or the way people were back then! And most of these experts seem to be located elsewhere in the world to boot!2 years ago
I don't ever recall seeing advertising that touted this movie as some historical tome. The movie is entertainment, that's all. It's a story based in the American Revolution period. So what if it took liberties on facts. So what if it used story lines to create an environment that wrapped the viewer in an emotional frame of mind. THAT'S WHAT MOVIES DO, FOLKS! It's a movie, for Pete's Sake, not a historical documentary touting actual events. It's just a movie that captures the essence of the time from the viewpoint of one family, right or wrong. It does that very well, IMHO. I cannot believe that there are no movies out there in other countries that slant the truth to reflect their viewpoints.
Oh, BTW, to the reviewers who think that we Americans believe everything we see, trust me, that's not happening. We're not all that dumb and gullible, despite Jay Leno's Jaywalking may make it seem! Come on, folks, LIGHTEN UP!
Oh, BTW Part Deux, children were trained at an early age back then to shoot, and shoot accurately. Guns were not a paranoidal issue then like they are now. So I have no problem believing that these children could shoot a rifle, other than possibly the rifle knocking them over from the recoil!
Good but ........
5/10 The Patriot is technically a good movie. Nicely made with good characters, good acting, a strong storyline and fabulous cinematography.2 years ago
But, to say this movie distorts history would be an understatement. And that is extremely sad in a movie that sells itself as an accurate portrayal of events during the revolution. The Patriot, unfortunately, crosses the line and try's to portray as 'actual fact' a film which is predominantly fictional. Hence, the 'real life' equivalent of Benjamin Martin actually used to scalp Native Americans in his spare time (a fact neatly overlooked by the director).
This 'rose tinted' view of history is at its worst during the church-burning scene where a British Army officer ordered the murder of many innocent civilians by locking them in a church and setting it alight. This event never took place and yet, thanks to The Patriot, a whole generation of Americans will believe that the British Army actually committed this horrendous act in South Carolina -- when in fact history shows that it was not the British Army that burned a church full of people in 1776 but the Nazis that did during WW2.
As a Brit, I don't so much mind Hollywood always portraying us as the 'bad guys' -- after all it is American money making these films -- I'm more concerned that some Americans actually believe what they watch. This is especially true in movies like The Patriot which 'pretend' to be real.
It's a shame that in such a technically competent movie, which pays such attention to minutiae detail like the costumes, that something as significant as the accuracy of the screenplay could have been so grotesquely overlooked.