The Patriot is a film that came out a year too early. Imagine if this film had come out after September 11th, when American pride was at its all time high. It would've been bigger than Titanic! People would've been lining up around the block to see Mel Gibson fight for our country's freedom. It would've been considered the most inspirational film of all time, a masterpiece.
Instead, The Patriot is considered by many to be an over-indulgent exercise in Hollywood commercialism that contains little in the way of historical accuracy and even less in the way of originality. I say: bullocks to that! The Patriot is, to me, anyway, a fantastic historical action/drama, and even though it has its sappy, melodramatic scenes, it's still very enjoyable and entertaining.
Mel Gibson plays Benjamin Martin, a widower and wealthy plantation owner in the South with a large family, including his oldest son, Gabriel (Heath Ledger). Eventually, the Revolutionary War manages to find its way into Martin's backyard, and his house is burned by the evil General Tavington, a delightfully evil villain who's general insanity is matched only by Adolf Hitler. In addition, Tavington kills Martin's second oldest son, who, in all honesty, kinda deserves it (when Tavington says 'Stupid boy!', I agree.)
Anyway, Mel Gibson goes on a Rambo-esque rampage against British troops, the joins the Continental army as the leader of a militia. With his rag-tag team of gentle farmers and hard boiled brutes, Martin causes severe devastation the British supply lines, including one awesome scene in which they pop out from tall grass and shoot the shit out of the British redcoats.
This movie has a lot of action, which is why I consider it to be an action movie above all else. It's essentially just a standard revenge story set in a different time period (much like Braveheart). Mel Gibson is pretty cool, as usual, and his character is actually kinda deep (for an action movie, anyway). Heath Ledger is also pretty good, but rather dull. He has almost no personality, and his supposed 'love interest' is boring and has no influence on the actual plot. It should've been left on the cutting room floor.
The character of Tavington is evil to an insanely exaggerated degree. Was it necessary to make him so damn evil? His evil reaches Nazi-like proportions, perhaps even worse. He is a gnarly man indeed, and makes for a great villain, as long as you can get past his totally exaggerated behavior.
The battle scenes in the film are awesome. The costumes look great (though rather inaccurate), and every combat scene is thrilling and well-executed. The final battle, in particular, is very exciting.
The film contains so much emotionally exploitative moments it would make Terms Of Endearment jealous. Everything is so melodramatic and corny, but so aweome at the same time. My absolute part of the film is near the end, when Mel Gibson rides into battle carrying an American flag and all the soldiers wave their hats in the air triumphantly. It's an empowering scene, and its cheesier than Rosie O'donell's butt-crack.
The music in the film, composed by the legendary John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones) is one of my favorite things about the film. The score is so epic. It's incredible, there's nothing more to say, it pretty much makes the film.
One of the many complaints about the film is its apparent skimming over of the many 'racial' issues going on at the time. I wonder if that's such a bad thing. Let me explain: in order to properly explore such delicate themes and issues, the film would have to dedicate a lot of time to it, and at over two and a half hours, the film is long enough as it is. So, the only options are to A.) cover it half-assingly, or B.) ignore it and get on with the action! I choose B.
While certainly not perfect, The Patriot is a very enjoyable film with great action, great music, and great direction (yes, for the first time ever, I liked Roland Emmrich's direction). I fucking love The Patriot.