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
I have long feared that my sins would return to visit me, and the cost is more than I can bear.
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In the extended edition, the "ambush" scene following the death of Thomas. In the original edited version of the film we soon observe the infamous Tavington interviewing a dying witness of the event in a battlefield tent hospital. It is in this scene that the witness compares who we know as Benjamin Martin to a ghost. The problem is, as far as we knew, there were no survivors. We had to accept at face value that perhaps one must have escaped. In this version of the film we now know the facts! You see, after Martin does his bloody hack job on a would-be escapee, the camera pans in on one particular Redcoat as he lays wounded in a nearby swamp. We then get a peek at what he sees through his one dying eye: an eerie glimpse of Martin flitting through the dim light of the heavily-wooded forest. Then the camera focuses again on the bloodied face of this dying witness. It is not long thereafter that we discover that this poor chap actually survives (he's the one in the hospital tent). See more »
10% historical drama + 30% flag waving sentimentalism + 60% Mad Max = 100% twaddle
Although the British are engaged in war in neighbouring areas, Benjamin Martin sees no reason to get involved as he is a peaceful man now, despite his infamous military background. However when the British burn his home and heartlessly kill one of his young sons, Martin knows he must take a stand and enters the conflict. With great personal sacrifice he joins the bloody conflict for freedom and honour and the love of his country.
In his episode of The Simpsons, Mel Gibson starred in a remake of Mr Smith Goes to Washington except Homer helped him to change it into a film that was closer to Lethal Weapon than the James Stewart original. That was a joke, but having just watched Mel Gibson turn the American Civil War into a sort of revenge action movie I considered that perhaps Homer had a hand in this one too and that the joke was on us for spending three hours watching it. It starts out with a bit of moral chat about the importance of peace etc but one dead son later and Benjamin Martin has become a one-man war machine, wiping out 20 British soldiers in a blink of an eye. It is the start of a morally simplistic film that offers little for those looking for a historical piece. In fairness the film never actually aims to be anything other than a modern action movie in a historical setting but having low ambitious doesn't mean it can't be criticised for being crap because that is just what it is.
So we have the pantomime villains of the English killing women and children while the good wholesome American people (most of whom employ blacks to pick cotton rather than use slaves) try to do the right thing but are drawn into a bloody fight for freedom and justice. It is as simplistic as it sounds and every time Emmerich fears that his audience are losing touch with who the bad guys are, he'll have them burn kill a load of women with gleeful glints in their eyes. It gets tiresome very quickly and the fact that it is three hours long (give or take I'd prefer to take) just makes it worse. Visually it looks as good as you would expect a big budget production to do but substance-wise it is just nonsense, with overblown (if impressive) battle sequences which laughably include lots of John Woo style use of guns, slow-mo and catching weapons in mid-air before using them. The bits in between the action are no better as they are merely twists of an emotional knife that the writer must have hoped would make us overlook how simplified everything is; I was waiting for the scene where Col Tavington drowned kittens in a sack to demonstrate how evil he was. No, this is not a film to come to for debate because as far as Rodat is concerned, that is all done and dusted in the early stages and then completely dismissed as nonsense by the next 160 minutes of film. I'm not going to even get into the historical liberties taken because even ignoring them this is still a terrible load of rubbish.
Once the film gets going, Mel Gibson only does a couple of things: he is either cocky (like Riggs), brave (like Braveheart) or full of indignation and swelling pride in his country. He flicks between these like someone was turning a switch in his back; he is never consistent and he is never a real person in fact he is never anyone other than Mel Gibson. Heath Ledger gives a simplistic performance but with no material to work with, what could he do? I don't know why Richardson bothered to show up although I can appreciate that Karyo and Wilkinson have mortgages to pay just like the rest of us. I don't give the same excuse to Cooper because he always struck me as an intelligent actor who makes good decisions he is really too good to be earning his money from this. The support all do what they are told but I don't want to be too hard on the majority of the cast simply because the material is not there and nobody can do good work with characters that would seem underdeveloped on children's television.
Overall this is a good looking and noisy action movie and as such it might just please audiences that like lots of things blowing up and Americans being the good guys. However for the majority of viewers the simplistic material, stomach-churning flag-waving, emotional exploitation and dumb action movie clichés. It is nonsense from start to finish in my opinion and it is not worth 90 minutes, far less 170.
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