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THE PATRIOT (2000)
Screenplay Robert Rodat.
Directed by Roland Emmerich.
"Great Thrill Ride That Makes Me Proud To Be An American"
"Before they were soldiers, they were family.
Before they were legends,
Best Picture Oscar Winner / Best Picture Index
Benjamin Martin, a widower farmer living in a big house in South Carolina, with his 6 children and paid servants, knew too well of the barbarity and horror of war, being a hero of the fierce and gruesome French and Indian War. He was ashamed of his personal behavior during one incident, that haunts him.. When South Carolina voted to join the colony rebellion against the British, Martin declines to join the effort, due to his resolve to never fight again, claiming that his family needed him at home, the only parent they had left. His eldest son, Gabriel (Heath Ledger), in patriotic fervor joins the militia, against his father's wishes.
Martin's feelings change after a brief, but brutal meeting with the ruthless Green Dragoon commander, Colonel William Tavington (Jason Isaacs), who arrives at Martin's house when the war lands practically in his front yard.
Martin and his servants had set up a make-shift first aid center for militia and British soldiers as well on the front porch. When Colonel Tayington arrives, he orders his soldiers to kill the militia wounded, takes Martin's eldest son, who had come home during the battle, to hang back at their camp, and shoots and kills in cold blood the unarmed 14 year old son of Martin, when he protests his older brother's arrest. He also takes some of the servants and orders Martin's house burned to the ground. Obviously, being a real sweetheart of a guy, Colonel William Tavington was portrayed as having no conscience or redeeming qualities at all; (At least, not in this screenplay).
Martin sends his two younger children to his wife's sister, Aunt Charlotte (Joely Richardson), while he gets his guns and hatchet out of the house before it burns. Then, taking his two middle boys, they ambush the British detail that had taken Gabriel away, killing all the soldiers. It was a bloody scene, as the two boys shoot the officers, and Martin kills others with a hatchet, which is shocking to his three sons, to see this side of their loving, supportive father.
Thus, Martin joins Continental Army with his son, becoming Colonel Benjamin Martin, the commander of his son and assorted group of men, who hide out in the swamp, and ambush various British details, to annoy them until the French arrive to help. He gets the name of "The Swamp Fox", or "The Ghost."
Of course, the mean and nasty Colonel Tayington figures out who Martin is, after Martin tricks the British into exchanging prisoners, before some of his militia men can be hung.
One of my favorite scenes, is when Colonel Tayington and a British detail go to the Aunt Charlotte's house, in hopes of capturing her and the rest of Martin's remaining four children. Luckily, Martin's middle boy, who was keeping watch on the front porch, alarms the house, and they escape by the skin of their teeth. This son gets trapped momentarily in the dining room, and hides under the table. The dastardly Colonel Tayington, with his icy cold, steel-blue eyes, walks into the dining room, with his gun cocked, ready to shoot anything that moves. Courage and smarts comes in all ages, even in young boys.
When this movie came out, many people in the UK hated it, considering it an untruthful rendition of history, and felt the character of Colonel Tayington was unfairly maligned. He probably wasn't the total creepy animal that he was painted out to be in this film. (Hope he isn't spinning in his grave). In one part of the story, the local town where some of the families of Martin's militia were living, was visited by Colonel Tayington and his soldiers. Everyone was gathered into the church, and the church was set on fire, killing everyone inside, including Gabriel's newly wed wife, Anne Martin (Lisa Brenner). Soon after this, Martin suffers a second loss when Gabriel is killed by Colonel Tayington, when Martin's militia catches up to the soldiers who did it. While this incident may be the figment of someone's imagination, Hessian soldiers, that were brought over to fight the rebel militia, were known to do barbaric things such as this. It is also true that the Tories, colonists that supported the British, suffered at the hands of the rebels as well. War is hell, and brings out the worst in humanity.
Historically, the British did burn down homes, especially in South Carolina. To this day, Colonel Tayington is remembered for his efforts to hurt the morale of the people, by burning their houses. But, so did Sherman when he marched through Georgia to the sea, at the end of our Civil War. It is called the scorched earth policy, brutally used since dawn of time. The last big American home the British burned was the White House, in the War of 1812, which got it out of their system for good, thank goodness! They have proven to be our very good friends, and we have proven to be loyal friends to them as well, both in times of war and peace.
Another favorite scene is the last big battle, where the militia defeat the British. It is both graphic and stirring, a very strong moment of courage, patriotism and bravery. Freedom is costly, but worth fighting for, and was the only way Martin could protect his family and live ultimately in peace.
The screenplay, written by Robert Rodat, who also wrote "Saving Private Ryan." He wrote a most powerful, dramatic and exciting story, showing the birth pains of our country, the horror of war, the cost of freedom, and what it took to win it. The entire cast, under the superb direction of Roland Emmerich, did a great job, both individually and in ensemble work.
Mel Gibson, not only kicks butt, but also shows more than one dimension of his character. While a brave soldier, he also was a loving father, and a man with goals, like us all. One funny bit, is that he was determined to make a wooden rocking chair. Every time he tried, it broke under his weight, much to the amusement of his children. When he went to negotiate for the fake prisoner exchange, he was led to a waiting area, where he spies a rocking chair, which he is drawn to beyond his control, and just had to examine. As he turns it over to study it carefully, the commanders walk in, amused by his behavior, which slightly embarrasses him.
Veteran actor, Jason Isaacs, does an excellent job in playing the battle- hardened, ruthless, heartless Green Dragoon commander, Colonel William Tavington. What a great casting decision. He was the perfect bad guy, with no moral conscience or mercy. He didn't play it over the top, but with control; a truly chilling performance. In the movie, Colonel Tavington got his just desserts in the end predictably from marvelous Mel. But in real life, Colonel Tavington went home to England and became a representative in parliament.
The production values were top - notch. Realistic and graphic, the audience feels like they are right on the battle field, watching the action. Also, period costumes and sets really gives one a sense what it was like to be alive in that time period. Children were treated more like adults, taught to do important tasks, and had important responsibilities.
This film is rated R for violence and strong situations. This is a must see for Americans over 17!