“I will kill you before this war is over”
Who would have thought that the same dynamic duo that brought us blockbuster popcorn hits such as Stargate, Universal Soldiers, Godzilla and Independence Day would focus their collective attentions on an 18th period piece about the American war of Independence. What we have here is a German director with two Australian actors in a movie about the birth of America. Where is the Patriotism in that?
Director Roland Emmerich and Producer Dean Devlin have entrenched their skills in the big budget Sci-Fi hits of the 90’s and it is this skill that they use to compliment this very emotional story and bring to life one of the worlds most defining moments of history. Creating an epic such as the Patriot is a mammoth task and it is pulled off by this duo with liberties they took to allow some historical inaccuracies to creep into the movie for the sake of audience entertainment. It’s these inaccuracies that have hit a nerve with British audiences portraying them in battle as tyrants rather than gentlemen. It is all in the name of fun but it still cuts a fine line between fact and fiction.
Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) is a widower with seven children living a peaceful life in North Carolina. Raising his children whilst trying to keep them protected from the horrors he has seen in war is a task that becomes difficult when the battle currently raging gets closer and closer to home. It becomes more difficult when he is forced to watch as his eldest son Gabriel (Heath Ledger) defies him and enlists in the army as one of the Continentals fighting against the Red-Coats.
The war soon ends up on his doorstep where an act of tyranny by Colonel Tavington (Jason Isaacs) wells ups the rage within Benjamin and soon unleashes the monster that has been dormant since last called upon. This rage and revenge driven man is set loose within the woods of North Carolina, recruiting a team of militia to stand up against the powerful English red-coat army and bring freedom to his nation. Numerous hurdles and an emotional roller-coaster ride propels the story along until its final brutal conclusion, bringing independence to the nation that is America.
Whilst the Patriot is targeted toward the ‘patriotic’ American audiences there is something in there for everyone to enjoy from the grand and bloody battle sequences to the tender family moments that will draw a tear to many an eye. Gibson brings incredible depth to his character. His emotion and fatherly instincts contribute to the humanity he brings to Benjamin Martin as does glimpses of the rage, almost a violent insanity, we’ve come to see him act out in his early films such as Mad Max and Lethal Weapon.
Braveheart this is not but then again the performance Gibson brings to Benjamin could hold its own against William Wallace. Ledger also contributes a charisma to his part with a touch of light-hearted comedy during a tender moment mid movie. He is often refereed to as the next Mel Gibson but should really be considered the first Heath Ledger as he compliments Gibson well on screen, sometimes taking the limelight with him off screen.
Emmerich and Devlin have managed to capture the grand expanse that is the American countryside beautifully and married it with their digital effects company to give us an image of the late 18th century war with exceptional accuracy. Shot on location in modern day North Carolina, the lush flora are a pleasant distraction interspersed amongst the re-enacted war. Coupled with a great ensemble cast, a musical score by the great John Williams that stirs the emotions and a great soundtrack, the Patriot is just under 3 hours of epic entertainment.
This transfer was a little disappointing. Such a recent movie should produce an exceptional image free from grain and full of intricate detail yet it was not to be. At various times, the image looked stunning only to be marred by the next scene that seemed to be sourced from a different movie.
Black level is very good and is surprisingly free of any niggling issues with colors rich and accurate, albeit somewhat devoid in the opening farm scene. The image benfits from the anamorphic encoding so there won't be a lack of detail anywhere.
The 5.1 dolby digital soundtrack on the other hand packs a mighty wallop. The battle sequences here are the highlight with an excellent representation of the weapons of that era with the cannons providing a deafening presence. Pin point accuracy in the panning and surround effects make for an even subtler ambience. Dialogue is extremely well rendered across the entire front sound stage.
There are a few battle sequences throughout the movie and each one has its own richness and characteristics providing an entertaining vehicle to carry you through the almost 3 hour movie.
On most DVDs, extras are added as space fillers and marketing fluff, yet this DVD uses the extra space to provide us with content that will surely call for multiple viewings. Quality, not Quantity.
Despite its epic length, “Made for America” patriotism and minor innacuracies, the Patriot is excellent entertainment presented with decent video, exceptional audio and a great collection of extras. A worthy addition to your collection.