The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War and the soldiers on both sides that fought it, while their wives wait nervously and anxiously at home for the good news or the bad news.
A veteran policeman, Murtaugh, is partnered with a younger, suicidal officer, Riggs. They both have one thing in common: hating working in pairs. Now they must learn to work with one another to stop a gang of drug smugglers.
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It is 1776 in colonial South Carolina. Benjamin Martin, a French-Indian war hero who is haunted by his past, now wants nothing more than to live peacefully on his small plantation, and wants no part of a war with the most powerful nation in the world, Great Britain. Meanwhile, his two eldest sons, Gabriel and Thomas, can't wait to enlist in the newly formed "Continental Army." When South Carolina decides to join the rebellion against England, Gabriel immediately signs up to fight...without his father's permission. But when Colonel William Tavington, British dragoon, infamous for his brutal tactics, comes and burns the Martin Plantation to the ground, tragedy strikes. Benjamin quickly finds himself torn between protecting his family, and seeking revenge along with being a part of the birth of a new, young, and ambitious nation. Written by
The Patriot is NOT a documentary. It didn't pretend to be, and wasn't. Loosely based upon Francis Marion (the "Swamp Fox"), it only touched on Marion's impact on the Revolution in South Carolina. If anything, it was downplayed. For instance, in real life, he had over 150 men in his guerrilla band. The movie portrayed him as having far fewer. As a documentary, it fails on this and many other points. As a movie, it is a tremendous success.
As far as visuals, they were stunning. The wide-open vistas and battle scenes were breath-taking and beautifully filmed. Yes, it was violent, but that lent a realism to the film that most other films about this era lack. The look and feel of this period was portrayed well.
The acting was superb. I won't give anything away, but this did NOT (arguably) have either an entirely "Hollywood" plot people, including civilians, DIE, as they do in war or much of a "Hollywood" ending, despite a relatively happy one. That was impressive, and made the film genuine, exciting and at times, shocking. Plot points such as Benjamin Martin's youngest daughter's feelings about her daddy, and the romance between his son and a young girl were touching, and even emotional.
I found some things complain about. Crisp, clean, brand-new Colonial American flags suddenly appear after, and during, the final battle. In reality they would have been rags by then or at least not so clean. One bad bit of dialogue: Benjamin Martin is on the beach with his sister-in- law, and he asks if he can sit down. Her reply, "It's a free country or will be soon," was a 20th century throw-away line dressed up with a 1780 caveat, and I cringed at it.
The film was historically accurate in many respects. The formal way of speaking, plus the family-above-all, loyalty-to-The-Cause attitudes expressed throughout, were genuine, even though both are out of favor today. Children using weapons, and going off to fight on a moment's notice, was not an uncommon story, and supposedly happened in a branch of my own family. Relationships like Martin's and his wife's sister did occur, often out of necessity. I was surprised to read afterwards that the battle tactics of the last scene occurred, almost exactly as shown, at the Battle of Cowpens, including fierce hand-to-hand combat. Colonel Banastre Tarleton the basis for the movie's character William Tavington was indeed seen as a war criminal by American colonists at the time, and the real Tarleton even had a horse shot out from under him!
But was it biased? Sure it was. Roughly a third of the American colonists were Loyalists, another third were "rebels", and another third were undecided. It would have made the story more complete and complex to portray this (or the time Tarleton mistakenly slaughtered some of those very Loyalists!) But I've read a poem online ("Ode to Valour") dedicated to Col. Banastre Tarleton's "heroic exploits" that would shame modern-day propagandists.
I think we all accept that not every British officer of this era was a monster. In fact, in the movie as in real life - Cornwallis and other British officers were appalled that the "Ghost"/Swamp Fox did not play by the rules of "civilized warfare", and chastised characters like Tavington who also breached them. The real Swamp Fox knew a bit about balance, however. After after the war, when the real Francis Marion served in the South Carolina Senate, he is said to have advocated a lenient policy toward the Loyalists. The real Tarleton survived the war, went home to write his memoirs, was seen as a hero, and was elected to Parliament. Maybe we need a sequel to cover all of these other aspects of the story. Until then, this one is a must- see.
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