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It's 1776 and Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) is a hero of the French and Indian War, guilt-driven by some of his 'heroic' acts. Now a widower farmer in South Carolina with seven children, Martin is trying to avoid the war of Independence against the English, but his children, especially the eldest boy, Gabriel (Heath Ledger), smolder with ideology, keen to fight for freedom from the Redcoats, who represent a distant King trampling the rights of the new world's battlers. Only when his family is in the direct line of fire does Martin follow Gabriel into vengeful battle, seeking revenge for the barbarity of Colonel Tavington (Jason Isaacs). An exemplary soldier and tactician, Martin helps the new nation defeat the English, led by Lord General Cornwallis (Tom Wilkinson). But of course, it all comes at a high price.

"A spectacular epic, The Patriot is an involving human drama set against the huge backdrop of the American Revolution. Its emotional impact results from the very personal and spiritual conflict of the protagonist; we are emotionally engaged from the start. Cinematic, with a glorious musical score from John Williams, it's a gripping journey where courage, loyalty and the value of family are the benchmarks. Much of the credit must go to Mel Gibson, whose charisma and credibility sets the pace. Heath Ledger, in his second US film, comes close to stealing many scenes, while Chris Cooper, Jason Isaacs and Tom Wilkinson leave their distinctive marks.

On DVD, in widescreen, the film looks magnificent with superb reproduction and sound. In the audio commentary by director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin, we hear how almost the entire film was backlit, resulting in a strikingly beautiful film. It's an interesting commentary they discuss the shoot, the locations and the special effects shot, as well as canvassing the debate about war. They talk in detail about Mel Gibson's lack of vanity and how vulnerable he allowed himself to be in the physically demanding role. As father of seven children in real life, Gibson brings a certain subtle credibility in scenes with the children: we really believe they are connected.

There's an interesting interactive visual effects feature with narration by Visual Effects Supervisor Stuart Robertson in which we see, in a three-split screen, how key effects are achieved. We can also compare the conceptual story board to the final results, and watch deleted scenes with optional commentary. In The True Patriots featurette, we hear from screenwriter Robert Rodat, the producers, historian Rex Ellis and Deborah Scott who describes the costumes in great detail. (Scott won an Academy Award for her work on Titanic.) Although the story is fictional, the backdrop represents serious history, and we get a feeling for the time and place of the setting. The director and cast give a snapshot of their experiences in The Art of War featurette; Jason Isaacs reveals that the battle scenes were shot in one long take, so if an actor made a mistake, it was a huge process to redo the scene.

You can listen in English or Hungarian, plus there's a host of sub-title options. The Patriot DVD is jammed with special features which can be accessed through simple navigation. It's a moving experience and one for your collection."
Louise Keller

Published: January 11, 2001

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CAST: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, Jason Isaacs, Chris Cooper, Tcheky Karyo, Tom Wilkinson

DIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich

RUNNING TIME: 158 minutes

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: January 4, 2001

Audio commentary
7 deleted scenes (with optional commentary)

Interactive visual effects feature

The True Patriots behind the scenes feature

The Art of War featurette

Conceptual art to final film comparisons

Photo Gallery
Talent Profiles
Animated menus
Picture disc

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