"Little House on the Prairie" in flames
The Patriot
Review by Ross Anthony

"The Patriot" loyally rides strong in the first act. But becomes somewhat disillusioned during the third and especially the second acts. Mel Gibson fervently brings the father/soldier role to life.

In the 1770's, "retired" from the service, Mel is called to arms as a Patriot, a supporter of a free America, to win the country from those pesky British during our revolutionary war. A family man, he shrugs, "I'm a parent ... I don't have the luxury of principles."

There's a great deal of heartfelt father, son, family tension in the early portion of the film, but all that gives way to blood, guts and the gory of a very realistic wartime barbarity ... a sort of red, white and blue "Braveheart." But as the body count mounts, the film changes its mind about how it will portray killing. Eventually, the gory of war becomes the glory of war.

Also a bitter mixture: the graphic seriousness of hand to hand, bayonet to face field battles with corny throwaway humor. Though just a hand full in number, these comic relief quips ... ring like laughter at a funeral. And the schmaltz ... it's laid on maple syrup thick. I have a high tolerance for melodrama, but this dose, tipped my strong stomach. One church/militia recruitment scene breaks the schmaltz barrier and should have been cut from the film.

Tough to swallow also, Mel twice uses the same shallow "trick" to fool red coat officers. The first time it was cute, the second time, blatently ridiculous in a film that strives to portray the revolutionary war realistically. And the scene where these hungry war torn militiamen grimace at the prospect of eating dog - just foolish. They're starving!

But you've gotta love Mel! When you see him there in the middle of South Carolina, shots whizzing by, canons exploding, cotton wisping in the cold cloudy sky like snow, riding a strong steed while clasping that gorgeously unfurled 13-star United States of America flag ... you kind of forget about all those years he spent in Australia. Preparing to rescue one of his sons, Mel is absolutely savagely loving, brutally fatherly as he dashes through the forest carrying an armful of muskets. That scene is beautiful.

Fantastically cast, Heath Ledger (of "10 Ten Things I Hate About You" fame) gives a steadfast performance as Mel's number one son. Also contributing in the acting department, Chris Cooper (who usually plays the jerk-dad, "American Beauty") is commanding in perhaps his only good guy role this year. And of course, the fight scenes are careful, powerful, stunning, and quite realistic.

It's a big film, two and a half hours. You'll leave feeling like you've just watched a mini-miniseries.

  • The Patriot. Copyright © 2000. Rated R.
  • Starring Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, Chris Cooper, Tcheky Karyo, Jason Isaacs, Tom Wilkinson.
  • Directed by Roland Emmerich.
  • Written by Robert Rodat.
  • Produced by Dean Devlin, Mark Gordon, Gary Levinsohn at Mutual/Centropolis/Columbia.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:00:24 PDT