"The Patriot" is an American historical and fictional war film that was released to theaters in the summer of 2000. It stars Mel Gibson, Jason Isaacs, Chris Cooper, Tom Wilkinson, and Heath Ledger. It was directed by Roland Emmerich, and written by Robert Rodat.
What lead me to watching this movie comes from the fact that I am an American and I love American History, and I love to learn how my country came to be the great country it is today, and what sacrifices were made for the U.S.A. to become a country, and this is a wonderful film to learn all that. I also have a slight interest in English history and English culture as well, and the history of the English military, and this film has all of those things in it and more.
The film takes place during the American Revolutionary War, mostly during the mid-to-late 1770's in the state of South Carolina, which is the host to several bloody conflicts between the British Army and the Continental Army. What lead to the American Revolution was that there was a time when America was apart of the Kingdom of Great Britain, and Great Britain at that time had been in one war or another for fifty years and was drowning in debt. Over in London England, Parliament felt that Americans should help out by paying their fair share, and King George III agreed. After all, Great Britain had spent plenty of pounds fighting in American Colonies for the good of the Americans, and the crown was still supporting the British Army to help stop Indian attacks on the American frontier. Great Britain felt it was their right to collect payment. The American colonials however resented being taxed by parliament in which they had no representation, which #among other things# lead to the American Revolution.
The story in "The Patriot" is about a rural American family lead by Benjamin Martin #Mel Gibson# - A father, a widower, farmer, and veteran to the French and Indian War. Martin and his family finds themselves caught in the middle of war. Martin only desires to live in peace, and to raise his family, and for the sake of his children, he hopes to avoid conflict with King George III's Army as much as possible, but he and his family soon learn that being caught in the middle of war can sometimes be more dangerous then actually picking a side to support.
English actor Jason Isaacs brilliantly plays the part of the brutal Colonel William Tavington - An evil, heartless, loyal, and fearless English soldier who has nothing but hate for disloyal Americans. He will stop at nothing to crush the American rebellion against the Crown, including breaking the rules of warfare. This way of thinking soon leads to a conflict between Tavington and Martin when the two men meet.
While many of the characters in this film and the main story itself are fictional, some of the events, as well as some of the other characters certainly are not fictional. And also, if you study the American Revolution, you'll learn that British soldiers commited various war crimes against American civilians, so what we see American civilians go through in this movie is not that far-fetched. One can learn quite a lot about the American Revolution by watching this film infact. i.e. The settings, the locations, the battles, the style of clothing people wore during that time period, etc. This film is visually beautiful, and quite a treat for the eyes.
I've read some people's comments online over the years and they nit-pick this film about some of the historical inaccurate's, and the thing is, this film is not a documentary, and it's not a history book. It's a film and it's purpose is to not only educate, but to entertain as well, and I think this is a very educational and entertaining film. I love American History, and I study it, and when I watch the movie, I don't notice any historical inaccurate's, and I don't look for goofs. I just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. I also think because there are sadly some people out there who don't like history, in order to make a historical film more enjoyable for non-history buffs, some things had to more dramatized to make it more appealing and interesting to the casual fan who normally has no interest in history. It's mostly hardcore history buffs that nit-pick. I really don't think the average mainstream casual fan doesn't know about the inaccuracies or doesn't care. They are just looking to be entertained, as am I. I will also give an example of how just making a film entertaining as opposed to historically accurate can sometimes be a good thing:
During the American Revolution, it's likely #although I'm not 100% sure# based on my studies, everyone #Americans included# spoke with an English accent, and it probably didn't even sound like today's English accent. However, from an entertainment stand point, in my view, I enjoy the fact that in "The Patriot" the American characters speak in an American accent, and the English characters speak in an English accent. Reasons being is because -
First - Being an American myself, it makes me able to relate to the American characters more when I hear their American accent.
Second - Because of the difference in the accents between the American characters and the English characters, it creates a more of a culture clash, and adds to the tension and makes it all the more entertaining. All wars have a "Us against them" attitude, and if the accents were exactly the same in "The Patriot", I question if that tension and crystal clear distinction between the two would have been there. It just makes the film more entertaining by having the accents be different. Even in movies about the American Civil War, the accents are different.
I think history buffs will enjoy this film, as well as anyone looking for a good movie to watch on the 4th of July. I think some of the more hardcore history buffs who have a demand for historical accuracy might be bothered by the fact that this film not only aims to educate, but entertain as well, even if that means not making everything historically accurate. I also think some people from England may not care for the film since it vilifies the English.
As far as how it compares to other war films - Some war films such as "Glory" or "Full Metal Jacket" only show's the U.S. soldier's perspective, and nevers show the enemy's point of view, whereas other war films such as "Gettysburg" will not vilifie anyone, and presents both armies in a fair way and makes each side sympathetic, and you the viewer can understand both armies cause.
"The Patriot" however is a classic good vs. evil film with the Americans as the heroes, and the British as the villians. It shows the British point of view in the film, but it shows it in the same way "Star Wars" shows scenes that feature it's villians. i.e. You see the scenes of British soldiers interacting with each other, and you can learn more about them, but you will not likely be cheering for them afterwards.
As far as the action goes - There are a lot of good action scenes, but it's not just a straight-up action film. There's romance as well in the movie, and the film also shows just how badly war affected American civilians after the violence, and all the hard-work and planning it took to overcome such a strong and powerful British Army.
Some have even compared "The Patriot" to "Braveheart" because both films star Mel Gibson, both are history films, and both are about Mel Gibson playing a character that leads a revolt against the British. While both films have a few things in common, they overall are two very different movies in my view. American colonial culture and 1300-something Scottish culture are very different for starters, and because "Braveheart" took place in the 1300's and "The Patriot" took place in the 1770's, the styles of warfare are very different from each other, so the battle scenes are quite different. And William Wallace was a single man leading his people to freedom, and he craved war, whereas Benjamin Martin did not start any war, and did not welcome war, and is only trying to survive it and protect his family.
All and all, "The Patriot" is a great and fun film full of beauty, emotion, romance, action, and drama that will not only entertain you, but teach you a lot about early American history as well. It has a wonderful soundtrack, and is a good film to watch anytime of the year, but it's extra fun to watch it around or on the 4th of July. It'll make the hoilday twice as festive if you have a cool American Revolution film to watch. I think if you can ignore and/or forgive the film for some of it's very minor historical inaccuracies, you'll find yourself really enjoying this movie. After swimming and enjoying BBQ all day with your family on 4th of July, this is a great movie to pop-in and watch with them at night. It will make you proud to be an American.