Mel Gibson delivers the high quality performance audiences have come to expect from him. Rage, sorrow, happiness  all are evident at some point in facial expressions, voice and body language. Gibson remains one of the many talented performers who have yet to receive an Academy Award for Best Actor. Jason Isaacs is delightfully detestable as Tavington. Merciless and a cool lover of carnage, Isaacs is perfect. Heath Ledger, playing Martin's eldest son, Gabriel, brings a youthful sensitivity and naivete to the film. It is fortunate that Gibson (who handpicked Ledger for the role) saw Ledger's potential for powerful emotion. His previous films, most notably the teenybopper movie Ten Things I Hate About You, lacked the substance to give him the chance to display these talents.
It was a pleasant surprise that Ronald Emmerich, the director who brought us such atrocities as Independence Day and 1998's Godzilla, managed to pull together such an entertaining and moving story. One must assume that Emmerich, who wrote both ID4 and Godzilla is a better director than writer. In The Patriot, Emmerich's skills as a director are evident, never failing to keep the film visually stimulating. The battle scenes are exciting but not confusing. Telephoto lenses are used effectively in these sequences when a wide-angle lens would cause the main point of action to blend in. The talented Robert Rodat of Saving Private Ryan fame penned the screenplay. In The Patriot he seamlessly weaves tragedy, action and a degree of comedy that build a well-rounded story.
In addition to excellent direction, story and acting, The Patriot also marks yet another triumph for composer John Williams. For example, when the film opens on the Martin family's farm, the music is nothing short of inspiring, as if everything is right in the world; but when Thomas dies, a symphony of violins seem to weep, and a church bell sounding in the distance serves as a death toll.
Benjamin Martin only agreed to fight when his noninvolvement cost him the life of his son. He wanted to love his family, be a good father and live a peaceful life. He felt he had served his country and he did not want to reopen the painful scars left behind. Ultimately, the message declared in The Patriot is that you have to defend your beliefs, because as Martin himself says, `the price is more than I can bear.'
8 out of 10 stars