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THE PATRIOT

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Mel Gibson, Jason Isaacs, Heath Ledger, Chris Cooper, Joely Richardson
Director: Roland Emmerich
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 165 Minutes
Release Date: May 28, 2002  

"I have long feared that my sins would return to visit me.  And the cost is more than I can bear."

Film ***

The Patriot was the film event of the year in the area I live in, or the millennium for that matter. The movie was shot on location in my home state of South Carolina, where the movie’s story also takes place. Shortly after seeing the movie theatrically, I caught an article in the local paper and discovered that a good many of the extras in the movie were right from my hometown of Greenwood, which brought a smile to my face. The movie had a long run at the multiplex here in Greenwood, as one wood expect, and everyone that I knew who saw it said it was of the greatest movies they had ever seen. As for me, I enjoyed the movie and felt like I got my money’s worth, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call the movie great. The film runs for nearly three hours, and although it contains some exhilarating war scenes, as well as some powerful performances, it just doesn’t rank with some of great war movies Hollywood has made, especially another Mel Gibson vehicle called Braveheart.

It’s important to note this to the viewer: if you’re looking for a history lesson, stand completely clear. The war depicted in this movie did happen, and the settings seem truly real, but this is simply summertime, action-adventure fare that just happens to have a historical background. So if you have an upcoming test on anything relating to the Revolutionary war, please don’t look to this movie as a source.

So it’s not historically accurate, but as a action movie, The Patriot is certainly more engrossing and powerful than you’re standard fare, and a terrific, very heroic characterization that the audience can truly cheer for. The character is Benjamin Martin, and is played by Mel Gibson in a performance that is powerful and truly worthy of the actor’s talent. Martin is a widowed farmer with seven children. A veteran of the French and Indian War, Martin has vowed never to find himself in another war again, and does not want any of his sons to enlist. His oldest son, Gabriel (Heath Ledger) is the most eager to enlist in the army, which he soon does against his father’s wishes. Shortly after Gabriel returns home wounded, Benjamin begins taking in wounded soldiers from both sides and treating them in his home, which results in his encounter with a vile British Colonel named Tavington  (Jason Isaacs), whose brutal threats and tactics eventually lead Martin to join the fight against the British.

The treatment of this villain is somewhat disappointing for a film like this, and is no different from an insane madman that you’d find in say, a Lethal Weapon or a Die Hard movie. His every scene consists of ordering his men to do something terrible to innocents, killing someone, or harshly threatening somebody. He isn’t really given much of a personality, but he does do some things that will really make you cheer when he gets what he deserves in the end. I do love the scene where Martin approaches Tavington, who makes a remark about a dead one in Martin’s family, and tells him, “Before this war is over, I am going to kill you.”, to which Tavington replies, “Why wait?”.

The movie should be noted for it’s lavish production value and it’s cinematography by Caleb Dreschanel, which is nothing short of breathtaking. The movie’s battle scenes are quite a knockout, too. The movie was written by Robert Rodat, who also wrote the superb script of Saving Private Ryan, and the war scenes in The Patriot have sort of the same grim and horrific feel that war scenes in Spielberg’s movie had. This is the first movie that has illustrated the impact of a high-speed cannonball, which is likely to have your jaw drop to the floor. I was particularly blown away by the film’s climatic battle scene, which includes a fight-to-the-finish between Martin and Tavington, which is brilliantly choreographed and shot.

The Patriot is from the film making team of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, who were also behind Independence Day and Godzilla. It may seem strange that they chose to do a movie about the revolutionary war, but they did a surprisingly good job considering that Godzilla failed miserably, making this sort of an interesting comeback. It does make for a near three hours of grand entertainment, with a few flaws here and there, but an tense, involving movie experience, nonetheless.

Video ****

The Patriot, like Hollow Man, was one of Columbia Tri Star’s most terrifically transferred titles, and it too gets a bigger boost from Superbit format in this grand presentation. The cinematography by Caleb Deschanel beautifully captures the breathtaking landscape of South Carolina, and the look of this film is enhanced to beautiful perfection in this presentation. Colors standout as most dynamic, never flawing a bit, and the image quality is consistently clear and sharp to a tee. An all around magnificent looking reinvention of an already impressive looking disc.

Audio ****

Much like the case with the image quality, the audio quality of The Patriot has been elevated to an even more impressive feel of theatrical-quality sound. The 5.1 audio track, which provided a grand sound on the original disc, delivers an even bigger bang, as the presentation excels throughout, most definitely in the frequent scenes of war action. Everything from the roar of musket shots, fast and furious cannonballs, and clanging of sharp swords, along with the epic score by John Williams all add up to one gargantuan-like sounding movie. Excellent on all accounts!

Features ****

Excluding only the director and producer commentary track, Columbia Tri Star has left all of the original extras from the original release of The Patriot to acquire the second disc. Features include three featurettes, “The Art of War”, “The True Patriots”, and a Visual Effects Interactive featurette, as well as Art-to-Film comparisons, a deleted scene, photo galleries, trailers, & filmographies.

Summary:

With this knockout re-release of The Patriot, it is illustrated purely that Columbia Tri Star is ready to bring its Superbit series out into the mainstream, and be accepted by DVD fanatics that are truly in search of wholly superior home entertainment.