Ty Burr
October 24, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Patriot (Movie - 2000)

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
157 minutes
Wide Release Date
06/28/00
performer
Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Rene Auberjonois, Chris Cooper, Jason Isaacs, Tom Wilkinson
director
Roland Emmerich
Producers
Centropolis Entertainment, Mutual Film Company
distributor
Columbia Pictures
author
Robert Rodat
genre
Historical, War, ActionAdventure, Mystery and Thriller

We gave it a C+

Watching the first half of The Patriot, viewers may find themselves reflecting upon the rapidness with which the narrative breakthroughs of ”Saving Private Ryan” — a brutal insistence on ”realistic” carnage; a sense that any character can be killed off at any time — have been swallowed by the mainstream and digested into pap.

For, make no mistake, director Roland Emmerich’s gloss on the American Revolution is big budget hackwork, from its Snidely Whiplash villain (Jason Isaacs) to John Williams’ emotionally fraudulent score. Far from depicting the historical stakes, Emmerich seems content to blow things up real good and, as Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) runs around the woods attacking the British, to graft a jingoistic remake of ”Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” onto Old Glory.

And yet, there’s a smaller movie here struggling to get out, and it’s an honest one. Martin has enlisted along with his headstrong eldest son, Gabriel (Heath Ledger), and ”The Patriot”’s second hour, in which father and son come to know each other as men through word and deed, carries far more weight than any way cool shot of a cannonball carrying off a soldier’s head. As for the rest — well, as Samuel Johnson might have put it, patriotism is the last refuge of the guy who made ”Godzilla.”

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