|The Patriot: Cause and Redemption|
Retired French and Indian War hero Benjamin Martin, widower and father of seven children, found a measure of peace as a South Carolina plantation owner. Then the Revolutionary War comes to call. Benjamin’s oldest, 17-year-old Gabriel, enlists in the fight for independence against his father's wishes. The war hits even closer to home when a battle erupts on Martin's land, leaving Gabriel wounded and turning the plantation house into a field hospital.
Enter the inhumane villain, Colonel Tavington (Jason Isaacs), a British cavalry commander of colossal arrogance obsessed with advancing his career, even at the expense of non-combatant civilians. When Tavington shoots Gabriel’s 15-year-old brother for trying to rescue Gabriel from hanging, the war becomes personal for the anguished Benjamin.
Will Benjamin and Tavington duke it out during the final battle of the film? You bet. Three guesses as to who wins, and the first two don't count.
However, Benjamin Martin's journey to that final confrontation proves emotionally fascinating as he battles not only the British but himself. Benjamin’s previous combat experiences against the French and Cherokee pushed him beyond the brink of humanity. The love of Benjamin’s wife redeemed him then, but who will save Benjamin now that she’s dead? Will Benjamin’s faith in God be enough to restore his humanity a second time? Can "The Cause" -- the great fight for independence -- serve as turning point and salvation for Benjamin as well as England’s American colonies?
Other characters face their own issues. The personal story of each man, woman and child poignantly intertwines with Benjamin’s. Rene Auberjoinois (Odo of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) deserves particular praise for his portrayal of a minister-cum-militiaman ("Someone has to tend the flock…and fight off the wolves.")
Naturally, some stories receive more attention than others. For instance, I would’ve preferred to see Benjamin do more "processing" with his youngest sons, who early in the film witness Benjamin’s grief-induced battle frenzy against the unit detailed to transport Gabriel to the gallows.
The failure to provide an on-screen closure for Benjamin’s youngest sons, plus Tavington's one-dimensional character and some minor logic disconnects make me wish I could knock off a quarter-point to my rating. I give The Patriot full marks, however, because its excellence far outweighs its flaws. Amazingly accurate details abound, including Benjamin's guerilla exploits, based upon those of Sir Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion and other renowned freedom fighters. Mel Gibson also deserves a hearty "bravo" for delivering the first non-cartoon film I've seen in decades that doesn't rely on profanity and sexuality to titillate the audience. Nevertheless, I strongly caution parents to preview The Patriot to decide whether they wish to expose underage children to its extreme violence.
As a viewer I look askance at anything labeled a "must-see." Therefore, as a reviewer I rarely dole out such distinctions. But if you consider yourself a history or warfare buff, a parent or a patriot you must see this film.
Kim D. Headlee
Kim D. Headlee is the author of Blue Boa Award winner Dawnflight, a novel about the legend of Guinevere garnering rave reviews and other award nominations from romance and fantasy venues alike.
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