Gibson plays Benjamin Martin, bloodied veteran of the French and Indian Wars and, a few years later, conscientious objector to the War of Independence. His pacificism owes as much to pragmatism as conviction - he's a widower father of seven who inclines against British rule - but, more interestingly, it's also born of shame at the violence he knows within himself. At least on some level, The Patriot attempts to harness this rage. Perhaps it's to the credit of this violently idealistic film that it doesn't entirely succeed. You can approach it from many angles. It's written by Robert Rodat of Saving Private Ryan, and shares that film's anxiety about 'fighting the good fight'; it's directed by Emmerich and, after Independence Day and Godzilla, you could say it's his third American war movie; or it's Mad Mel up to his old tricks, learning to channel anger to socially productive ends. The intimate and domestic scenes tend to be stuffy and forced, but Emmerich does convey a sense of war encroaching across the land. It looks ravishing, too. But isn't there something obscene about a film which parades a very modern knowledge of atrocity and evil, only to tub the trite rhetoric of Stars and Stripes forever? Often impressive, but stirring and stomach churning in equal measure.
Cast and crew
Mary Jo Deschanel