By John Tuttle (Cherry Valley, Illinois, US)
My family and I watched The Patriot about a month ago, a few days before Independence Day which marks the celebration of the birth of the United States back in 1776. I have to say it has quickly become one of my all-time favorite films. It is an R-rated war movie, and it stars Mel Gibson. Thus, you can pretty safely make the assumption that it is action-packed and has its fair share of violent battle sequences (which it does).
The war being fought throughout the film is none other than the American Revolutionary War, the bloody rebellion of the colonies against the motherland of Great Britain, lasting from 1775 until 1783. This piece of historical fiction displays many of the important historical points pretty accurately, such as the huge loss for Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown. General Cornwallis was about the only character in the film that existed. The rest are almost entirely fictitious entities. Though the character of the darkest villain, Colonel William Tavington, was apparently based on the real life figure Colonel Banastre Tarleton.
I considered the film’s musical scores very moving. They were composed by John Williams, a legendary man who has composed music to war films including Star Wars (1977), War of the Worlds (2005), and War Horse (2011) as well as patriotic movies like Born on the Fourth of July (1989), JFK (1991), Nixon (1995), and Lincoln (2012). The Patriot also brought together some very familiar and popular acting talents.
Heath Ledger, who played Gabriel Martin, went on to portray the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008). Four years prior to The Patriot, Joley Richardson who played Charlotte Selton, had starred in the live action version of 101 Dalmatians. Trevor Morgan (Nathan Martin) went on to play Eric Kirby in Jurassic Park III which was released the year following The Patriot. It was a pleasure to see Tom Wilkinson as Cornwallis. Wilkinson had previously played another ill-tempered British man with power and an ego in another R-rated movie, The Ghost and the Darkness (1996). Of course, all the acting was dwarfed by Gibson’s performance. Gibson’s pinnacle in the film was the sequence where he completely loses his mind and temper over the second death of one of his sons at the hands of Colonel Tavington. Everyone in the room watching that scene had tears in his or her eyes.
Though perhaps not appropriate for all members of the family and apart from the aspects of war, The Patriot gave an extremely positive representation of family and faith, which was personally nice to see. There were several scenes which depict main characters praying to God in solitude or as a congregation in church. Several great love relationships ran throughout the plot. In several ways, it had an overall dark and sorrowful tone. But it brought to light some of the harsh realities of the war and what people either willingly sacrificed or had torn from their grasp. It was a truly moving motion picture in almost all respects.