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'The Patriot': Don't Tread on Me -- Or Else
by Uri Dowbenko
What if the atrocities of war came to your front yard -- if your son was shot in the back in cold blood -- if your house was torched while you looked on helplessly?
Directed by Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day") and written by Robert Rodat ("Saving Private Ryan"),"The Patriot" is the archetypal story of the Reluctant Warrior. He's the man who has seen -- and experienced -- too much bloodshed, yet he understands that the fight for freedom is a never-ending battle, as long as tyrants walk the earth.
The film begins in 1776 with a South Carolina farmer, Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), a widower with seven children and the veteran of the French and Indian Wars.
While his son Gabriel (Heath Ledger) is eager to enlist in the Continental Army, Martin delivers an impassioned speech against the war, declaring, "I'm a parent. I haven't got the luxury of [having] principles."
Bathed in the golden light of magic hour, however, the family's idyllic lifestyle is shattered by British troops and their ruthless slaughter of the colonials. After his own son is murdered by the British dragoon Col. Tavington (Jason Isaacs) and his house is burned down, Martin breaks out his cache of flintlock rifles and takes his 10 and 12 year old boys on a raid against the cruel invaders.
Indeed "The Patriot" shows the inception of guerilla warfare in America, loosely based on the exploits of Francis Marion the "Swamp Fox," hero of the Disney TV shows. Martin's prayer, "Lord, make me fast and accurate," makes the ensuing bloodbath all the more ironic. The brutal, graphically violent, hand-to-hand fighting with hatchet and musket is so shocking that even his boys are speechless at the transformation of their father into a blood and gore drenched killing machine.
In the age-old conflict between family and duty, the son tells his father, "I'm a soldier. It's my duty [to fight]." The father replies, "Your duty is to your family." In this context (patriot, by the way, is "a person who loves, supports and defends his or her country"), the film is framed around the question -- when does self-defense becomes the most important issue in a man's life?
As an answer, Martin's pacifism disappears and he joins his war veteran friend Col. Burwell (Chris Cooper) as the head of the South Carolina Militia. "Going muzzle to muzzle with the Redcoats in the field -- it's madness," he says, as he develops his own hit-and-run fighting style which wreaks havoc with what the British consider the "proper" protocols of war.
As the farmer-turned-soldier continues to melt his murdered son's tin soldiers into lead balls for his musket, the war moves on through more battles, more slaughter and more bloodshed.
"I have long feared that my sins would come back to visit me and the cost is more than I can bear," he says. Mel Gibson's performance as the vulnerable grief-filled family man, the man of constant sorrows, is made more poignant by his understanding of the karma of war.
Just as the film "Gladiator" defined The Betrayal of the Warrior, the theme of "The Patriot" is The Warrior's Redemption. The inconsolable grief of seeing your children die in battle is made more poignant by the Warrior's ineffable understanding. "You can justify this sacrifice? Why do men feel they can justify death?" he asks.
German-born director Emmerich's staging of the spectacle of the American Revolutionary War and its atrocities, as well as the grueling emotions of combat are bereft of the gung-ho drippiness of "Independence Day." The sticky sentimentality of Rodat's "Saving Private Ryan" is also thankfully absent.
Curiously, however, the film omits any mention of the mercenary Hessian (read German) soldiers who were drafted and sent to the New World to fight for King George III.
"The Patriot," however, will be provocative to the anglophiles who are so vocal on behalf of the "cousins." British film reviewers have chided Gibson for so-called "historical distortions," i.e. Brits have not always acted like ruthless nazis in pursuit of their Empire. The mayor of Liverpool even asked for an apology regarding the portrayal of the Tavington character. Several of Gibson's other movies, after all, have had British villains, notably "Gallipoli" and "Braveheart."
"The Patriot" is also resonant with the immediacy -- and politically incorrect inferences -- of current history. When the British colonel burns down a church full of people, one can't help but be reminded of the Waco Massacre and the slaughter of the innocents by FBI snipers, Delta Forces and other government troops.
In another pointed remark, the Mel Gibson character says, "I believe you underestimated our militia."
"The Patriot" then is Mel Gibson's shot across the bow, a note of warning to the New World Orderlies and the globalists who would promote their schemes for a tyrannical One World Government. The film is also a powerful anti-gun control statement, and a pointed reminder that as long as Americans have weapons, they will defend themselves.
Unilateral disarmament of the people of any nation has always been a precedent to the holocaust which invariably follows.
When the foppish Gen. Cornwallis (Tom Wilkinson) is shocked by the war's outcome, he sneers, "This army of rabble. Peasants." It's a wink to the audience that the tyrants of the world will never fully overcome the indefatigable forces of freedom.
Tyranny will not stand -- whether in Soviet Washington or in the globalists' plans for genocide and world enslavement.
Moral of the story? As the saying goes -- keep your powder dry.
And to paraphrase another phrase -- Freedom Fighters of the World Unite.
The Patriot (Video)
The Patriot (DVD)
Copyright © 2001 Uri Dowbenko. All Rights Reserved.
Uri Dowbenko is CEO of New Improved Entertainment Corp. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
(The preceding is a sample chapter from
"Hoodwinked: Watching Movies With Eyes Wide Open"
by Uri Dowbenko
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