The Patriot (2000 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Roland Emmerich|
|Written by||Robert Rodat|
|Music by||John Williams|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$215.3 million|
The Patriot is a 2000 American historical fiction war film directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Robert Rodat, and starring Mel Gibson, Chris Cooper, Heath Ledger, and Jason Isaacs. The film mainly takes place in rural Berkeley County, South Carolina, and depicts the story of an American Colonist, nominally loyal to the British Crown, who is swept into the American Revolutionary War when his family is affected. Benjamin Martin is a composite figure who Rodat has stated is based on four factual figures from the American Revolutionary War: Andrew Pickens, Francis Marion, Daniel Morgan, and Thomas Sumter.
The film takes place during the events of the Southern theater of the American Revolutionary War. It attracted controversy over its fictional portrayal of historical British figures and atrocities, especially with the infamous burning church scene, of which there is no historical record. Critic Roger Ebert wrote: "None of it has much to do with the historical reality of the Revolutionary War".
During the American Revolutionary War in 1776, Captain Benjamin Martin, a veteran of the French and Indian War and a widower with seven children, is called to Charleston to vote in the South Carolina General Assembly on a levy supporting the Continental Army. Fearing war against Great Britain, Benjamin abstains; the vote is nonetheless passed and, against his father's wishes, Benjamin's eldest son Gabriel joins the Continentals.
Four years later, Charleston falls to the British and a wounded Gabriel returns home carrying dispatches. The Martins care for both British and American wounded from a nearby battle, before British Dragoons, led by Colonel William Tavington, arrive, capture Gabriel with the intention of hanging him as a spy, and take captive the African American free men and women who work on Benjamin's land. When Benjamin's second son Thomas tries to free Gabriel, he is shot and killed by Tavington, who then orders the Martins' house burned, and wounded Americans executed. After the British leave, Benjamin gives his next two eldest sons rifles, and they ambush the British unit escorting the captive Gabriel. Benjamin skillfully, yet brutally, kills many soldiers with his tomahawk. A British survivor tells Tavington of the attack, earning Benjamin the moniker of the "Ghost". Gabriel decides to rejoin the Continentals and Benjamin soon follows, leaving the younger children in the care of Benjamin's sister-in-law, Charlotte. On their way to the Continental Army's camp, they witness the southern Continental Army under General Horatio Gates engaging the British Army. Benjamin recognizes the foolishness of the action, having served in the British Army; sure enough, the Continentals are decisively routed.
Benjamin meets his former commanding officer, Colonel Harry Burwell, who makes him colonel of the local colonial militia due to his combat experience and also places Gabriel under Benjamin's command. Benjamin is tasked with keeping Lord Cornwallis's regiments pinned south through guerrilla warfare. French Major Jean Villeneuve helps train the militia and promises more French aid.
Gabriel asks why Villeneuve and others often mention Benjamin's participation in an incident at Fort Wilderness. Benjamin, having been hesitant to answer the question up to now, finally tells his son. Benjamin had been fighting in the British Army in the previous war when he and several other soldiers discovered a French atrocity against the British. The enraged men caught up with the French at Fort Wilderness and slowly, methodically butchered all but two of them. The survivors were forced to admit what happened to their Cherokee allies and to bring their comrades' heads as proof. Benjamin reveals that he has been haunted by guilt ever since.
Benjamin's militia harasses British supply lines, even capturing some of Cornwallis' personal effects and his two Great Danes, and burn half the bridges and ferries leading to Charleston. Lord Cornwallis blames Tavington for creating this reaction with his brutal tactics. However, irritated at the lack of progress, and insulted by Benjamin's clever ploy to free some of the captured militia, Cornwallis reluctantly allows Tavington to stop Benjamin by any means necessary.
With the reluctant aid of the Loyalist Captain Wilkins, Tavington learns the identities of some militia members and attacks their families and burns their homes. Benjamin's family flees Charlotte's plantation as it is burned to live in a Gullah settlement with former black slaves. There, Gabriel marries his betrothed Anne. Tavington's brigade rides into the town that supplies the militia. He assembles all the townspeople, including Anne, into the church, promising freedom in exchange for the whereabouts of the rebels. After their location is given, he has the doors barricaded, and orders the church to be burned, killing everyone inside. When they discover the tragedy, Gabriel and several other soldiers race to attack Tavington's encampment. In the ensuing battle, Gabriel shoots Tavington, but Tavington mortally wounds Gabriel before fleeing. Benjamin arrives soon thereafter, only to have another of his sons die in his arms.
Benjamin mourns and wavers in his commitment to continue fighting, but is resolved when reminded of his son's dedication to the cause by finding an American flag he repaired. Martin's militia, along with a larger Continental Army regiment, confronts Cornwallis' regiment in a decisive battle at the Battle of Cowpens. The British appear to have the upper hand until Benjamin rallies the troops forward against their lines and Tavington rushes to attack him. The two fight and Tavington attains the upper hand, delivering several wounds to Benjamin. Benjamin slumps to his knees, and Tavington prepares to deliver the coup de grâce. At the last second, Benjamin dodges the attack and stabs Tavington, avenging his sons' deaths. The battle is a Continental victory, and Cornwallis sounds the retreat.
After many retreats, Cornwallis is besieged at Yorktown, Virginia where he surrenders to the surrounding Continental Army and the long-awaited French naval force. After the conflict ends, Benjamin returns with his family, with Charlotte carrying their new baby, and discovers his militia soldiers rebuilding his homestead in their old town road.
- Mel Gibson as Captain/Colonel Benjamin Martin
A veteran of the French and Indian War, the hero of the fictional Fort Wilderness, and widowed father of seven children, Benjamin does what he can to avoid fighting in the Revolutionary War knowing the implications surrounding it. In addition, he does not want to reveal to his family what he is capable of in violence. When his oldest son, Gabriel, joins up, and his second born son, Thomas, is killed, he takes it upon himself to join and fight with the colonial militia. He is nicknamed "The Ghost" by the British. He is based on a composite of historical characters which include Thomas Sumter, Daniel Morgan, Nathanael Greene, Andrew Pickens, and Francis Marion.
- Joely Richardson as Charlotte Selton
Benjamin's sister-in-law and later wife. She is the owner of a plantation that is burned down by the British. She looks after Benjamin's children while he is fighting; eventually they have a child together.
- Heath Ledger as Corporal Gabriel Martin
Benjamin's eldest child, and the husband of Anne Howard. He decides to join up with the Continental Army against his father's wishes. He is killed during an attack on the Green Dragoons' camp, while seeking revenge against Colonel Tavington for his wife's murder.
- Lisa Brenner as Anne Howard
Gabriel's childhood friend and love interest, whom he marries later in the film. She is killed in the town church along with the rest of the town on Tavington's orders.
- Gregory Smith as Thomas Martin
Benjamin's second son, he, like Gabriel, is anxious to fight in the war, but Benjamin says he has to wait because of his age. He is shot and killed by Tavington when he protests against Gabriel's arrest. Tavington rebukes him as a "stupid boy" for his actions afterward. Benjamin takes Thomas's set of toy tin soldiers and, over the course of the film, melts them down into bullets for his pistol.
- Trevor Morgan as Nathan Martin
Third son, he and Samuel help around the farm. When Gabriel is taken prisoner and Thomas is killed, he and Samuel help their father on a rescue mission.
- Bryan Chafin as Samuel Martin
Fourth son, he is usually seen helping Nathan around the farm. When Gabriel is taken prisoner and Thomas is killed, he helps his father, Benjamin, rescue Gabriel by killing several British soldiers. For a short while, he becomes scared of his father after he witnesses him brutally killing and mutilating a British soldier with a tomahawk.
- Mika Boorem as Margaret Martin
Benjamin's older daughter, she is often seen taking care of her younger siblings.
- Logan Lerman as William Martin, Benjamin's fifth and youngest son.
- Skye McCole Bartusiak as Susan Martin
The youngest of Benjamin's seven children, initially she will not speak, which may be a post-traumatic reaction to the death of their mother Elizabeth. Her feelings towards her father change radically as the film progresses, and after Benjamin leaves from the furlough to rejoin his militia, in an extremely emotional scene, she seemingly forgives him and tells him she'll say anything he wants to make him stay, to which Benjamin can only promise to return.
- Jason Isaacs as Colonel William Tavington
Colonel of the Green Dragoons, he’s portrayed as a brutal and psychopathic commander. Long ago, his late father wasted away the family esteem and William’s inheritance. He suggests to Cornwallis that he be allowed to acquire land in the Ohio territory as payment after the war since the brutality his commander wants from him sacrifices his social standing in English society. He is nicknamed "The Butcher" by the people. The character is based on Banastre Tarleton.
- Chris Cooper as Colonel/General Harry Burwell
One of Benjamin's commanding officers in the French and Indian War and a colonel of the Continental Army. He fought in the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill. When his wife gives birth to their firstborn son, they name him after Benjamin's late eldest son, Gabriel. He is based on Lieutenant Colonel Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee.
- Tchéky Karyo as Major Jean Villeneuve
A French officer who trains Martin's militia, he holds a grudge against Martin for his part in the French and Indian War, but they become close friends by the war's end. He explains in the film that he watched his wife and two daughters, 12-year-old Violette and 10-year-old Pauline, being burned in the ship that carried them by the British, which explains his hatred for them. He serves as Martin's second-in-command.
- René Auberjonois as Reverend Oliver
A minister of Pembroke who volunteers to fight with the militia. He also tries to give spiritual advice to his fellow soldiers. He is one of the eighteen captured men taken to Fort Carolina and released later on by Benjamin. He helps Gabriel in killing Captain Bordon, but is mortally shot by Tavington. Before dying, he courageously tosses his musket to Gabriel so that he may finish off Tavington.
- Tom Wilkinson as Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis, 2nd Earl Cornwallis
A general of the British army. While pompous and arrogant, he is disgusted by Tavington's savage and ungentlemanly tactics. Cornwallis is a skilled commander, with Martin calling him a genius, but he sees militia soldiers as nothing more than "farmers with pitchforks" and is easily duped by Martin in a key scene. His two Great Danes, Jupiter and Mars, are a gift from King George III.
- Donal Logue as Dan Scott
One of Benjamin's men. He is a racist and bullies the former slave Occam, but grows to befriend him, especially when saved by him while wounded. In the last part of the film, they stand side by side in the final battle and the raising of Martin's new house.
- Peter Woodward as Brigadier General Charles O'Hara
Cornwallis' second-in-command. Like Cornwallis, he does not share Tavington's views on war.
- Leon Rippy as John Billings
One of Benjamin's neighbors and oldest friends who joins the militia. He is one of the 18 captured men taken to Fort Carolina and later released by Benjamin. Afterward, John helps Charlotte Selton and Benjamin's children escape the burning of the Selton plantation. He commits suicide, in full view of his comrades, after finding that Tavington's men have killed his wife Elizabeth and son Thomas. Afterward, Benjamin gives the militia a furlough.
- Adam Baldwin as Captain James Wilkins
An officer in the Loyalist Colonial militia recruited into the Green Dragoons by Captain Bordon. He knows Benjamin Martin well, and is called upon by Tavington to divulge such information when required. Earlier on, at the South Carolina Assembly in Charleston, he is one of the twelve out of forty to vote against a levy for the Continental Army. He fights alongside Tavington, and also shares these brutal views on how "all those who stand against England deserve to die a traitor's death". When he is forced to burn the church at Pembroke, with town residents inside by Tavington, only then does he regret his own words and realize what kind of man his commanding officer really is. He is last seen fighting alongside the British in the final battle of the movie; his fate is not shown.
- Jamieson K. Price as Captain Bordon
Tavington's second-in-command of the Green Dragoons. He is killed by Gabriel in the raid against the Dragoons.
- Jay Arlen Jones as Occam
An African slave who is sent to fight in his master's place. He is taunted and bullied by the other soldiers in the militia, but is treated as an equal by Benjamin, Gabriel, Jean, and later on by Dan Scott and the others. He gives out information of the captured eighteen militia men at Fort Carolina while escaping Tavington's trap. After serving a year in the Continental Army, he becomes a free man, but nonetheless still serves with the militia until the end of the war, and later aids, alongside his former adversary Dan Scott, in raising a new house for Martin. (See also: African Americans in the Revolutionary War)
- Joey D. Vieira as Peter Howard
Anne Howard's father, who lost his left leg and most of his hearing while fighting the French and Indian War. He likens British taxation policies to the British taking his other leg.
- Zach Hanner as British field officer.
- Terry Layman as General George Washington.
- Andy Stahl as General Nathanael Greene.
- Grahame Wood as a friendly British Lieutenant at Martin's farm who interacts with both Benjamin Martin and Colonel Tavington. He sees Tavington's orders to kill the Colonial wounded and other prisoners revolting, but remains silent and follows through with the orders without question. He dies shortly afterwards in Martin's skirmish to rescue Gabriel.
Screenwriter Robert Rodat wrote seventeen drafts of the script before there was an acceptable one. In an early version, Anne is pregnant with Gabriel's child when she dies in the burning church. Rodat wrote the script with Gibson in mind for Benjamin Martin, and gave the Martin character six children to signal this preference to studio executives. After the birth of Gibson's seventh child, the script was changed so that Martin had seven children. Like the character William Wallace, which Gibson portrayed in Braveheart five years earlier, Martin is a man seeking to live his life in peace until revenge drives him to lead a cause against a national enemy after the life of an innocent family member is taken.
Joshua Jackson, Elijah Wood, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Brad Renfro were considered to play Gabriel Martin. Harrison Ford turned down the lead role of Benjamin Martin because he considered the film "too violent,", and that, "it boiled the American Revolution down to one guy wanting revenge." The producers and director narrowed their choices for the role of Gabriel to Ryan Phillippe and Heath Ledger, with the latter chosen because the director thought he possessed "exuberant youth".
The film's German director Emmerich said "these were characters I could relate to, and they were engaged in a conflict that had a significant outcome—the creation of the first modern democratic government."
The film was shot entirely on location in South Carolina, including Charleston, Rock Hill—for many of the battle scenes, and Lowrys—for the farm of Benjamin Martin, as well as nearby Fort Lawn. Other scenes were filmed at Mansfield Plantation, an antebellum rice plantation in Georgetown, Middleton Place in Charleston, South Carolina, at the Cistern Yard on the campus of College of Charleston, and Hightower Hall and Homestead House at Brattonsville, South Carolina, along with the grounds of the Brattonsville Plantation in McConnells, South Carolina. Producer Mark Gordon said the production team "tried their best to be as authentic as possible" because "the backdrop was serious history," giving attention to details in period dress. Producer Dean Devlin and the film's costume designers examined actual Revolutionary War uniforms at the Smithsonian Institution prior to shooting.
The musical score for The Patriot was composed and conducted by John Williams and was nominated for an Academy Award. David Arnold, who composed the scores to Emmerich's Stargate, Independence Day, and Godzilla, created a demo for The Patriot that was ultimately rejected. As a result, Arnold never returned to compose for any of Emmerich's subsequent films and was replaced by Harald Kloser and Thomas Wanker.
The Patriot received generally favorable reviews from critics. The film scored a "Fresh" rating of 61% rating among all critics on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 134 reviews and with an average rating of 6.13/10, which notes that it "can be entertaining to watch, but it relies too much on formula and melodrama." The Patriot is one of two Emmerich films to ever be given a "fresh" rating from that website (the other is Independence Day). Rotten Tomatoes also notes that, "While his hero is conscience-stricken about killing, Emmerich sure enjoys serving it up in generous helpings. " On Metacritic, the film earned a rating of 63 out of 100, based on reviews from 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". The New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell gave the film a generally negative review, although he praised its casting and called Mel Gibson "an astonishing actor", particularly for his "on-screen comfort and expansiveness". He said the film is a "gruesome hybrid, a mix of sentimentality and brutality". Jamie Malanowski, also writing in The New York Times, said The Patriot "will prove to many a satisfying way to spend a summer evening. It's got big battles and wrenching hand-to-hand combat, a courageous but conflicted hero and a dastardly and totally guilt-free villain, thrills, tenderness, sorrow, rage and a little bit of kissing". The film was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound.
False reviews controversy
A highly positive review was purportedly written by a critic named David Manning, who was credited to The Ridgefield Press, a small Connecticut weekly news publication. During an investigation into Manning's quotes, Newsweek reporter John Horn discovered that the newspaper had never heard of him. The story emerged at around the same time as an announcement that Sony had used employees posing as moviegoers in television commercials to praise the film. These occurrences, in tandem, raised questions and controversy about ethics in movie marketing practices.
On June 10, 2001, the episode of Le Show, host Harry Shearer conducted an in-studio interview with Manning, whose "review" of the film was positive. The voice of Manning was provided by a computer voice synthesizer.
On August 3, 2005, Sony made an out-of-court settlement and agreed to refund $5 each to dissatisfied customers who saw this and four other films in American theatres, as a result of Manning's reviews.
The Patriot opened in 3,061 venues at #2 with $22,413,710 domestically in its opening weekend, falling slightly short of expectations (predictions had the film opening #1 with roughly $25 million ahead). The film opened behind Warner Bros The Perfect Storm, which opened at #1 with $41,325,042. The film closed on October 16, 2000 with $113,330,342 domestically, which barely recouped its budget of $110 million. It was successful overseas grossing $101,964,000 with a grand total of $215,294,342.
The Patriot was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Sound (Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Lee Orloff), Best Cinematography, and Best Original Score. It also received several guild awards, including the American Society of Cinematographers award to Caleb Deschanel for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography and the Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Award for Best Period Makeup and Best Period Hair Styling.
During development, Emmerich and his team consulted with experts at the Smithsonian Institution on set, props, and costumes; advisor Rex Ellis even recommended the Gullah village as an appropriate place for Martin's family to hide. In addition, screenwriter Robert Rodat read through many journals and letters of colonists as part of his preparation for writing the screen play.
Producer Mark Gordon said that in making the film, "while we were telling a fictional story, the backdrop was serious history". Some of the resulting characters and events thus were composites of real characters and events that were designed to serve the fictional narrative without losing the historical flavor. Rodat said of Gibson's character: "Benjamin Martin is a composite character made up of Thomas Sumter, Daniel Morgan, Andrew Pickens, and Francis Marion, and a few bits and pieces from a number of other characters." Rodat also indicated that the fictional Colonel William Tavington is "loosely based on Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who was particularly known for his brutal acts".
While some events, such as Tarleton's pursuit of Francis Marion and his fellow irregular soldiers who escaped by disappearing into the swamps of South Carolina, were loosely based on history, and others were adapted, such as the final battle in the film which combined elements of the Battles of Cowpens and Battle of Guilford Court House, most of the plot events in the film are pure fiction.
Criticism of Benjamin Martin as based on Francis Marion
The film was harshly criticized in the British press in part because of its connection to Francis Marion, a militia leader in South Carolina known as the "Swamp Fox". After the release of The Patriot, the British newspaper The Guardian denounced Marion as "a serial rapist who hunted Red Indians for fun." Historian Christopher Hibbert said of Marion:
The Patriot does not depict the American character Benjamin Martin as innocent of atrocities; a key plot point revolves around the character's guilt over acts he engaged in, such as torturing, killing, and mutilating prisoners during the French and Indian War, while not mentioning his crimes against fellow colonists during the Revolutionary War.
Was Francis Marion a slave owner? Was he a determined and dangerous warrior? Did he commit acts in an 18th century war that we would consider atrocious in the current world of peace and political correctness? As another great American film hero might say: 'You're damn right.' "That's what made him a hero, 200 years ago and today."
Graham also refers to what he describes as "the unchallenged work of South Carolina's premier historian" Dr. Walter Edgar, who claimed in his 1998 South Carolina: A History that Marion's partisans were "a ragged band of both black and white volunteers".
Amy Crawford, in Smithsonian magazine, stated that modern historians such as William Gilmore Simms and Hugh Rankin have written accurate biographies of Marion, including Simms' The Life of Francis Marion. The introduction to the 2007 edition of Simms' book was written by Sean Busick, a professor of American history at Athens State University in Alabama, who wrote:
Marion deserves to be remembered as one of the heroes of the War for Independence....Francis Marion was a man of his times: he owned slaves, and he fought in a brutal campaign against the Cherokee Indians...Marion's experience in the French and Indian War prepared him for more admirable service.
During pre-production, the producers debated on whether Martin would own slaves, ultimately deciding not to make him a slave owner. This decision received criticism from Spike Lee, who in a letter to The Hollywood Reporter accused the film's portrayal of slavery as being "a complete whitewashing of history". Lee wrote that after he and his wife went to see the film, "we both came out of the theatre fuming. For three hours The Patriot dodged around, skirted about or completely ignored slavery." Gibson himself remarked: "I think I would have made him a slave holder. Not to seems kind of a cop-out."
Criticism of Tavington as based on Tarleton
After release, several British voices criticized the film for its depiction of the film's villain Tavington and defended the historical character of Banastre Tarleton. Ben Fenton, commenting in the Daily Telegraph, wrote:
Although Tarleton gained the reputation among Americans as a butcher for his involvement in the Battle of Waxhaws in South Carolina, he was a hero in Liverpool, England. Liverpool City Council, led by Mayor Edwin Clein, called for a public apology for what they viewed as the film's "character assassination" of Tarleton.
What happened during the Battle of The Waxhaws, known to the Americans as the Buford Massacre or as the Waxhaw massacre, is the subject of debate. According to an American field surgeon named Robert Brownfield who witnessed the events, the Continental Army Col. Buford raised a white flag of surrender, "expecting the usual treatment sanctioned by civilized warfare". While Buford was calling for quarter, Tarleton's horse was struck by a musket ball and fell. This gave the Loyalist cavalrymen the impression that the Continentals had shot at their commander while asking for mercy. Enraged, the Loyalist troops charged at the Virginians. According to Brownfield, the Loyalists attacked, carrying out "indiscriminate carnage never surpassed by the most ruthless atrocities of the most barbarous savages".
In Tarleton's own account, he stated that his horse had been shot from under him during the initial charge in which he was knocked out for several minutes and that his men, thinking him dead, engaged in "a vindictive asperity not easily restrained".
Tarleton's role in the Revolutionary War in the Carolinas is examined by Ben Rubin who shows that historically, while the actual events of the Battle of the Waxhaws were presented differently according to which side was recounting them, the story of Tarleton's atrocities at Waxhaws and on other occasions became a rallying cry, particularly at the Battle of King's Mountain. The tales of Tarleton's atrocities were a part of standard U.S. accounts of the war and were described by Washington Irving and by Christopher Ward in his 1952 history, The War of the Revolution, where Tarleton is described as "cold-hearted, vindictive, and utterly ruthless. He wrote his name in letters of blood all across the history of the war in the South." Not until Anthony Scotti's 2002 book, Brutal Virtue: The Myth and Reality of Banastre Tarleton, were Tarleton's actions fully reexamined. Scotti challenged the factual accounts of atrocities and stressed the "propaganda value that such stories held for the Americans both during and after the war". Scotti's book, however, did not come out until two years after The Patriot. Screenwriters consulting American works to build the character Tavington based on Tarleton would have commonly found descriptions of him as barbaric and accounts of his name being used for recruiting and motivation during the Revolutionary War itself.
Whereas Tavington is depicted as aristocratic but penniless, Tarleton came from a wealthy Liverpool merchant family. Tarleton did not die in battle or from impalement, as Tavington did in the film. Tarleton died on January 16, 1833, in Leintwardine, Herefordshire, England, at the age of 78, nearly 50 years after the war ended. He outlived Col. Francis Marion who died in 1795, by 38 years. Before his death, Tarleton had achieved the military rank of General, equal to that held by the overall British Commanders during the American Revolution, and became a baronet and a member of the British Parliament.
Depiction of atrocities in the Revolutionary War
The Patriot was criticized for misrepresenting atrocities during the Revolutionary War, including the killing of prisoners of war and wounded soldiers and burning a church filled with townsfolk. While atrocities occurred during the war, the most striking of the film's depictions of British atrocities—the burning of a church full of unarmed colonial civilians—had virtually no factual basis nor parallel in the American or European 18th century wars, with the exception of the Massacre at Lucs-sur-Boulogne (fr) in 1794, which was a purely French affair with no connection to British troops nor the American Revolution. The New York Post film critic Jonathan Foreman was one of several focusing on this distortion in the film and wrote the following in an article at Salon.com:
The most disturbing thing about The Patriot is not just that German director Roland Emmerich (director of Independence Day) and his screenwriter Robert Rodat (who was criticized for excluding the roles played by British and other Allied troops in the Normandy landings from his script for Saving Private Ryan) depicted British troops as committing savage atrocities, but that those atrocities bear such a close resemblance to war crimes carried out by German troops—particularly the SS in World War II. It's hard not to wonder if the filmmakers have some kind of subconscious agenda... They have made a film that will have the effect of inoculating audiences against the unique historical horror of Oradour—and implicitly rehabilitating the Nazis while making the British seem as evil as history's worst monsters... So it's no wonder that the British press sees this film as a kind of blood libel against the British people.
The Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter, a historian of the era, said: "Any image of the American Revolution which represents you Brits as Nazis and us as gentle folk is almost certainly wrong. It was a very bitter war, a total war, and that is something that I am afraid has been lost to history....[T]he presence of the Loyalists (colonists who did not want to join the fight for independence from Britain) meant that the War of Independence was a conflict of complex loyalties." The historian Richard F. Snow, editor of American Heritage magazine, said of the church-burning scene: "Of course it never happened—if it had do you think Americans would have forgotten it? It could have kept us out of World War I."
The concept of patriotism
Slate columnist Michael Lind criticized the identification of the leading character's actions with patriotism. Specifically, Lind stated that "this movie is deeply subversive patriotism. Indeed, patriotism is a concept that neither the screenwriter...nor the director...seems to understand". He further wrote that "the message of The Patriot is that country is an abstraction, family is everything. It should have been called The Family Man".
In contrast, historian Ben Rubin argues that because the American Revolution was a conflict that as often pitted neighbor against neighbor—Whigs (advocates of Revolution) against Tories (loyalists to Britain)—as it pitted nascent Americans against the British, many people stayed neutral until goaded into taking a stand in reaction to perceived atrocities. From this perspective, Benjamin Martin's joining of the militia becomes, according to commentator Jon Roland, a deep patriotism that "shows them being called up, not as an act of an official, but by private persons aware of a common threat...[reacting to a] militia duty to defend one another".
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In the film, Gibson's character asks, "Why should I trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away?" "They Call me a brainless Tory," said (Doctor) Reverend Mather Byles while watching three thousand Sons of Liberty parading the streets of Boston, "but tell me my young friend, which is better, to be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away or three thousand tyrants not a mile away".
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Special features – True Patriots featurette
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