- rated - STONE COLD
Patriotism: The last refuge of the
scoundrel with no fresh ideas
I went to see this film in a private screening that my brother-in law
and sister-in-law won in a trivia contest. We were allowed to bring
alcohol into the theatre. What a mistake! Everyone knew each other and
everyone was chatty. My husband spilled wine all over me. I wouldn't
describe this as a normal way to watch a film. It might affect the
But this is formula film making. There's an interesting story to be
told about the American War of Independence, and we didn't get it in
The Patriot. I can't recall having seen many films about the this War -
there are plenty dealing with the Civil War, but not many about the war
against the British. I'd have liked to have seen more fact and less
fiction. What was the real story? Did we really need a father/son
conflict to keep us interested? After all, we have a bloody war! And do
we need the world's most predictable love story? With no passion? Talk
about family values!
Mel Gibson is charismatic, still, if a little coarser looking. But has
he ever actually acted? Not on the evidence of this film. He merely
swashbuckles. Heath Ledger can act, and risks overshadowing Mel (who
plays Heath's father - and they do look somewhat alike). But the real
acting honours go to the ever-reliable Chris Cooper (Magnolia (PT
Anderson, 1999) and American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999)), as a
bedraggled Colonel Harry Burwell. He's a real-looking American soldier.
And Tchéky Karyo (a Turkish actor who grew up in France) is also
striking as Jean Villeneuve - an unreal-looking French soldier. The
actors playing the English soldiers (Jason Isaacs and Tom Wilkinson)
don't have a chance - they are forced to play caricatures.
I guess I shouldn't have expected much from this film: the director,
Roland Emmerich and the producer, Dean Devlin were responsible for that
glorified comic strip, Independence Day (1996), and Godzilla (1998).
The writer, Robert Rodat, wrote that realistic view of World War 2,
Saving Private Ryan (Speilberg, 1998). This is not the kind of stuff I
go overboard about. But I had hoped for something good from Mel.
Much has been made about the fact that the Smithsonian Institution
consulted on the historical detail of the film. All I can say is that
they must have been consulted on costuming only (although even that is
questionable - did Southern ladies wear frocks that were quite so
low-cut or flimsy - especially during wartime?). There's very little
historical truth on show in the film, as far as I can see.
I'm being harsh on this film, I know, but two weeks after seeing it I
can barely remember it. All I can really remember was that some of the
scenes were beautifully staged, especially the war scenes. One rather
well-done set-piece had two little kids aiming muskets flawlessly and
hitting every Brit they aimed at. Stupid, but exciting. And I recall
that that the end was awash with schmatz. But everything about The
Patriot was just so predictable. So in the end, even the good things
about the film couldn't sway me. I couldn't wait for the war to end. Or
maybe it was just the fact that I had been drenched with wine.