My brother and I saw this movie on the 4th of July,2000 while on holiday in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Since the Canadians ‘confederated’ their way out of British bondage (& they’re still on good Commonwealth terms with the UK), the theater-goers’ reactions were not so favorable given how the British are portrayed in this Revolutionary war epic (burning churches & killing children!) My brother & I, however, cheered on Mel Gibson as his character Benjamin Martin morphed from a neutral-sit-on-the-farmer’s-fence-father into THE PATRIOT.
Since then I’ve watched this movie on every 4th of july or close to the date (working overseas July 4th is not a holiday so I often celebrated by watching this & eating American Dorito chips when they could be found!) Viewing it again yesterday, I’m still inspired by the whole ‘stay the course’ theme – through victory, defeat, death and sacrifice against what look like insurmountable odds, patriots like Benjamin Martin prevailed to lead the fledgling colonies into freedom and…the United States of America.
Heath Ledger (may he R.I.P.) gave an outstanding performance as Gabriel Martin, Benjamin Martin’s oldest son, who enlists early into the Continental army. The story weaves fiction with fact as General Cornwallis takes South Carolina and local militias are called up to fight. Tom Wilkinson plays a convincingly arrogant Cornwallis, while Peter Woodward is great as his always-complimentary sidekick, General O’Hara. The “bad-guy-loudly-boo” award goes to Jason Isaacs who portrays British Col. Tavington, a ruthless Dragoons calvary officer who employs extremely ‘ungentlemanly’ tactics. (Jason Isaacs tends to get the ‘boo’ award often!)
Some of my favorite lines are from Chris Cooper as Continental Col. Harry Burwell. (after a disasterous battle – “who’s in charge?” … “I am…I think.”) After Benjamin suffers incredible loss and wants to leave, Col. Harry challenges him: “You’re wrong Benjamin, you matter to your men, and to others as well. Your victories and… and your losses, are shared by more then you know. Stay with us. Stay the course!”
There’s a love story (2, actually), family values (Benjamin is a widower with SEVEN children), faith (Rene Auberjonois as Pastor Oliver, “sometimes a shepherd has to fight off the wolves”), a wedding, lots of historical settings…and a bit of violence (this is a Mel Gibson movie, afterall) including the cannonball-off-with-his-head & gory ‘hack-a-soldier-to-bits-with-tomahawk scenes. Rated R – not for children – but this is one of the few ‘R’ movies (in my opinion) that has an extremely high inspiration factor.
On this 4th of July, may you STAY THE COURSE wherever you might be & to my fellow & fellow-ette Americans, may we never forget the sacrifices of those who went before us (including the French who came to our rescue at Yorktown!)