His eldest son Gabriel (Ledger) is disgusted with his father's "cowardice." How can he just stand by, refusing to fight for his rights and freedom? Benjamin has children to raise. He doesn't have the luxury of youth to follow his beliefs. Or so he tries to convince himself. When the colonies declare war, Gabriel decides to enlist. Benjamin tries to stop him, to help him understand that war is not only about glory and honor, but also about pain and suffering. His conviction to stay neutral is put to the test when the war comes extremely close to home. To save his family, Benjamin must take up arms in a battle he's reluctant to wage.
His choice made for him, he gathers the local militia to help the Americans defeat the merciless and seemingly unstoppable Redcoats. With his son at his side, the militia's unorthodox ways of fighting seem to give their cause an advantage it so desperately needs. However, the British didn't become leaders of most of the free world by losing. With unimaginable loses on either side, this is a battle that will be fought to the end. Benjamin Martin and his South Carolina Irregulars are not about to give up. They're going to be free of Britain or die trying. Some of them do, some of them survive to see a new country being formed.
If you think this film sounds overly patriotic, you'd be right. It's also well-acted, exciting, horrifying, bloody and heartbreaking. What more could you want for you $9.00? Even when it was at it's most cloying, usually when Gibson was acting with his characters' children, I couldn't help but be deeply touched. This is our history, a story we don't often get to learn about. Yeah, I read about the Revolutionary War in high school, but that was a long time ago and this film gives life to those lessons. I know I'm an unusually soft sell, but the way the story was told, really got under my skin.
It made you wonder what you would have done had you been faced with those same choices. Would you have chosen to live out the war quietly in line with the British to save your family and your life? Or would you put it all on the line to live free? It's a very compelling argument and one that is actually able to keep one involved over the course of this 2 1/2 hour film. Lest you think it's all about patriotism and fighting, the film has some powerful and romantic subplots which enable you to see the softer side, as you will, of its' leading men. At its core this is a film about family and the lengths one man will go to protect his.
I saw THE PATRIOT at a sneak preview so I'm not really sure what the final rating or length will be. It took a little long to get going, but once it did, it was gangbusters. The violence, in the wake of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, was way more gruesome than it had to be. We already know war is terrifying and bloody, especially if you're one of the soldiers on the front line. To see legs and heads being blown off was more than what was needed to convey the horror of these conflicts. Plus, it looked totally fake and silly. Somewhat Pythonesque. The acting at times was over-the-top and the plot was predictable in parts, but Gibson, Ledger and Isaacs playing the evil British general Tavington are all worth the price of admission.
You've seen parts of Gibson's performance before, but when given the right motivation he can be brilliant no matter what crap is coming out of his mouth. Nobody plays the silent, brooding, deadly sufferer better. It's a little high-minded, trying to sell patriotism to the converted, but THE PATRIOT is mostly a sweeping, at times romantic, intelligent and emotional film. So if you don't mind a little preachiness in your historical war epics, you'll find yourself cheering the revolution on and thanking God you didn't live in colonial America.