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USA 2000
Directed by
Roland Emmerich
158 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

The Patriot

Although not the howler that was Revolution (1985) Hugh Hudson’s attempt to showcase the colonial uprising that took place between 1765 and 1783 and resulted in the founding of the United States of America, Roland Emmerich’s big budgeted historical action-adventure-romance-revenge thriller is on every level a cliché-ridden affair

Reprising his heroic persona from his own Oscar-winning Braveheart (1995) Mel Gibson plays Benjamin Martin, a South Carolina farmer and widower with seven photogenic children who, although opposed to war, after his second eldest son is killed by a sadistic British officer Col. William Tavington (Jason Isaacs), organizes a guerilla rebel group to fight the red-coated minions of King George III and as a result, if you believe this account, becomes pretty much responsible for the existence of the United States of America.

Needless to say, as history, bar the broad strokes, The Patriot, which was written by Robert Rodat, the writer of Saving Private Ryan (1998) is unadulterated tosh, a mere pretext for what no doubt was a huge production team to fabricate a rousing and as the title promises, patriotic spectacle. Even if sometimes (almost entirely thanks to the running battle between Benjamin and his son’s brutal killer, played with villainous relish by Isaacs) it does engage on an action-adventure level, to a large extent in terms of both Rodat’s script and Emmerich’s direction it is direly hackneyed stuff.

The film opens with a decorously DIsneyfied ideal of the pre-industrial South dished up in soft focus by Caleb Deschanel’s picture-book photography.  It then morphs into a by-the-book revenge thriller with Benjamin single-handedly wiping out a convoy of red-coats about to hang his eldest son (Heath Ledger) before offering his services to the rebel army (in particular an old battle buddy played by Chris Cooper) and establishing a militia group whose unconventional tactics destroy the British sang froid (represented with winning style by Tom Wilkinson as Lord General Cornwallis).

All this is done in a staggeringly cliché’d way, the only innovation that I could discern being Emmerich’s fondness for cannon balls blowing off the limbs (and in one case, the head) of the hapless rebel fodder.

The less tolerant will find it ridiculous the more tolerant, at best an OK time-filler




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