Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Spirit of 1776

The Patriot
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Jason Isaacs, Joely Richardson, Chris Cooper, Tom Wilksinson
Released: June 28, 2000
Viewed in theaters: July 14, 2000

Oscar nominations:
Best Cinematography (lost to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
Best Sound (lost to Gladiator)
Best Score - John Williams (lost to Tan Dun for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)

When it comes to movies about celebrating this country of ours, there's only one director you need to turn to for finding that perfect patriotic movie. I'm talking, of course, about Roland Emmerich, the German who gave us Independence Day and the movie I'll be reviewing in honor of Independence Day, and my favorite Emmerich movie, The Patriot. Now I know what you're thinking: Emmerich directs a lot of crap, crazy Mel Gibson is in this movie, this movie isn't the most historically accurate. Yes, it is true that Roland "let's destroy the world" Emmerich is a bit of a one-trick pony (director?) but to be fair, this is one of his few movies where the world isn't being destroyed and it's his highest rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes. Granted it's only 62% fresh, but it's still his highest rated. As for Mel Gibson, well this was before he became a punchline and honestly isn't the fact that both Heath Ledger and Jason Isaacs in this movie enough to make up for that? Plus there's a lot of other really cool people in this movie: (Oscar winner!) Chris Cooper, (Oscar-nominee!) Tom Wilkinson, Rene Auberjonois, Donal Logue (I'm one of the five people who watched Grounded for Life).

When I saw the trailer, I knew I had to see this movie. I'm usually not a big fan of epic war movies that are over two and a half hours, but when it comes to the 18th century and the American Revolution, I am a huge geek. It's my favorite era. If I could go anywhere back in time, I'd choose the 1770s. I think it would be fun! Well, maybe for like a day! The closest I've ever been to that time period is Williamsburg, VA (in 1994!)

Cinematic crush
Now as much as I love this movie as it's the only film about the Revolutionary War besides the one that's a musical starring Mr. Feeney, it does help that Heath Ledger is in it. I would still enjoy the movie even without him, but him being in the movie makes it so much better. I was a bit of a, ahem, Heath fangirl back in the day (and yes, I took his death VERY hard), but his character, who is the oldest child of Benjamin Martin (Gibson) is such a gem....which is actually what his initials are...GEM (Gabriel Edward Martin). He joins the war against his father's wishes and while he's gone, he writes to Ann, the (bland) girl he's courting and he's writing to her in his perfect calligraphy penmanship about how he's thinking of her and how he misses her and signs the letter "Eternally and forever yours." Awwwwww.  There's a lot of cute scenes between him and Ann like when she puts ink in his tea as revenge for when he did it to her when she was 11 and when they get married and he tells his dad that he must dance with her.

Plays an evil guy who hates a family with seven children..
sounds familiar! 
Jason Isaacs plays Colonel Tavington. The good news? No blond wig. The bad news? No pimp cane, although the furry hat makes up for it.  Let's just say Tavington makes Lucius Malfoy look like a kitty cat. When we are first introduced to him he finds out that Benjamin has been caring for wounded Red Coats at his plantation, and, thinking that Gabriel is a spy, demands for his hanging. His father tries to stop them, but he takes him anyway. Thomas, the next oldest Martin child, tries to save Gabriel, but is immediately shot and killed by Tavington who calls him a "Stupid Boy."

If you think just shooting innocent kids is bad enough, it gets worse. Just days after Ann and Gabriel get married, he gathers a bunch of the townspeople into the churching, including Ann and her parents, to hold a conference. After he gets information he needs from some blabber mouth, he demands for all the doors and windows to be shuttered and throws a torch onto the roof thus burning all the people inside. I didn't understand why everyone didn't just pry the pews from the floor and break the windows with them. Have they never seen Titanic? You know that event that happens about 130 years in the future and then a movie was made about it 85 years later? :-) But if Ann hadn't died, then we would have never gotten really hot Gabriel seeking revenge (he is really hot when he's angry!) So, uh, thanks, Tavvie. That's one of my favorite scenes when Gabriel and the others go after Tavington and his brigade after they discover the burned church. I love the scene where the priest (Auberjonois) has been shot and as he's falling in slow motion, he throws up his musket and Gabriel catches it to shoot Tavington with. It's just really cool and badass the way it's shot. It's just too bad that Gabriel had to get personal and stab Tavington himself. It's so obvious he wasn't dead after Gabriel shot him and when he drops the musket, I'm screaming, "What he hell are you doing? Shoot him again! SHOOT HIM AGAIN!"

Even after Tavington kills two of the main character's children and burns a church with a bunch of civilians inside, I still laugh at one of his lines during the final battle scene:
Tavington: "On my command, we charge!"
British solider: "But sir, we haven't been given the order yet!"
Tavington: "CHARGE!"

LOL! Tavington may be an evil SOB, but he sure can bring the funny.

Benjamin's youngest child, Susan, hasn't spoken since her mom died. She starts talking again when her father and oldest brother are out recruiting people to fight in the war. When the audience first hears her speak (along with Gabriel), she tells him that she hates their father and wishes he would go away and never come back. Later, Gabriel tells his father that Susan is talking and saying how much she loves him and misses him and understand why he's gone. That always makes me laugh how he just blatantly lies. When little Susan cries and begs the day after Gabriel's wedding when her father is about to leave again, I cried too! It  is so sad! I remember watching this in the theater and tears were streaming down my face! Did I cry when Thomas died? No. Did I cry when Gabriel died? No. (I was very disappointed though!) Did I cry when Ann and the others were burned alive? No. Did I cry when that one guy found his wife and  little red-headed son had been murdered? Yes, yes I did. But not as much as when Susan kept crying and saying, "Papa! Don't go! I'l say anything! Don't leave me!" OMG, it's sooooo sad! It just broke my heart.

Watching the movie now, there's no doubt that everyone would agree that the most famous Martin child is played by Heath Ledger, but when the movie came out 12 years ago, I would say there was probably someone else who played one of the Martin children who may have been a little more recognizable than Heath, who American audiences may have only known from Ten Things I Hate About You. Of course I'm talking about Gregory Smith, who played Thomas, from Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. Haha, no I'm just kidding. Third-oldest son Nathan is played by Trevor Morgan who had just come off playing Tommy Tammisimo (perhaps you've seen his cough syrup ads?) in a little movie called The Sixth Sense. Yeah, you may have heard of it. I love that movie even more than I love this movie. I remember watching this in the theater and thinking, "Be careful, Tommy Tammisimo!" when he was hiding under the table from Tavington.

Besides the great cast and the era this movie is set in, I also love the score, the costumes, and the cinematography.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY! In the words of another character from another Roland Emmerich movie, "Tonight we celebrate our Independence Day!"

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