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Posted on June 8th, 2012, by

The Patriot was shot in 2000 by Roland Emmerich, famous for such films as Godzilla, and Independence Day.

Its script was written by Robert Rodat, who also wrote Saving Private Ryan, and was produced by Mutual Film Company and Centropolis Entertainment. Still, in spite of big names, the film caused different points of view among critics from the very beginning. Taking into account Emmerich’s blockbusters, some critics predicted the same popularity for The Patriot, while others doubted the director’s ability to shoot a touching film about patriotism.

Though the film became a box office hit, disputes around it did not disappear. Its trustworthiness and historical accuracy became the main reasons of the controversy.

Before analyzing the film, it is necessary to consider its plot and the actors, starring there. The action takes place in South Carolina. It is the end of the eighteenth century; the Revolutionary War between Americans and French is about to happen. Benjamin Martin, played by Mel Gibson, is a widower, who brings up seven children. He is a veteran of the French and Indian War and has first-hand knowledge of a war. So, he does not want to take part in the hostilities, which are going to start. Unlike Benjamin, his eldest son Gabriel is bursting to go into action. In spite of his father’s prohibition, Gabriel joins American forces. Wounded, he comes back home in two years. Soon near the Martins’ house, the British and the Americans have a fight and the family takes care of the wounded from both sides.

However, it does not save them from the cruelty of the British. William Tavington, the British Colonial, captures Gabriel, threatening to kill him and kills Gabriel’s younger brother, Thomas, who was trying to free Gabriel. The British burn the house and leave. All these events bring the head of the family, Benjamin Martin, into the state of furious anger. He longs to free Gabriel and to take vengeance for his sons. Together with two his sons, he carries out a real massacre, killing British soldiers. Benjamin manages to free Gabriel, who is still determined to return to the troops, but at the same time, his behavior astonished his children. They saw not a kind-hearted father but a merciless killer of people. These scenes of bloody battles also cause much discontent among critics.

Soon father joins his son and both of them continue the struggle against the British. They realize that small American troops cannot smash the British, so they organize militia and start devastate British supplies. Apart from the main story line, the viewer witnesses the love story of Gabriel and Anne, who get married during the war. When Anne returns home after the marriage, she is burnt alive together with the people from her town. As it appears this order comes from William Tavington, the person who brought so much grief to the Martins.

This news infuriates Gabriel and he rushes to defeat Tavington and his detachment, called the Dragoons. The battle takes lives of many people from both sides and soon Gabriel and Tavington stay face to face. In they last fight, Gabriel seems to shoot Tavington, but when Gabriel approaches him, he stabs Gabriel and manages to escape. So, when Benjamin comes he finds only dying Gabriel. In a little while Benjamin and Tavington face each other in their final battle, where Benjamin kills Tavington. The story of the patriot ends with his coming back home and starting his new life with his children.

As it has already been mentioned, The Patriot caused a large number of disputes, mainly because of the historical inaccuracy of the film. As far as the film is based on the real events and the main characters have their prototypes, many critics agreed that the images in the film were exaggerated. If the authors portray a good character, he is good in everything and his acts are always for a good cause, while if the character is bad, he is ascribed the cruelest deeds.

The historians claimed that the Colonel Banastre Tarleton, the probable prototype of the Colonel Tawington, could hardly break the rules of war, though he was famous as a cruel person. There is no evidence that Tarleton, called Bloody Ban or The Butcher in rebel pamphlets, ever broke the rules of war and certainly not that he ever shot a child in cold blood (Leong).

One of the main points that caused indignation among critics was the anachronism of events, particularly the transfer of activities characteristic of fascist SS, into the time of the Revolutionary War. For example, the episode of burning people alive in the church is very similar to the massacre, carried out by SS in France during World War II.

Surely, such resemblance made the British furious as they were equated with fascist, the greatest evil of the society.

In general, the film is too categorical about two nations, the British and the Americans. In The Patriot», the British are cruel and merciless in all their manifestations, while the Americans are on the contrary patriotic and brave.

Throughout the film, the American characters are typically shown as being heroic and noble, while their British counterparts are inhumanely cruel while ridiculously encumbered with protocol and etiquette. Unfortunately, like any page from history, the truth is probably closer to the middle of these two extremes (Leong)

Another controversy concerns the depiction of slavery in the film. What surprises is that none of the black people working on Benjamin’s farm is a slave. Every person who knows history will say that in the eighteenth century in many states, including Southern Carolina, slavery thrived and was a norm for contemporary society. However, the authors of the film slanted the facts in favor of the modern tendencies in the world. Another proof of this fact is the status of women in the film. Being in fact oppressed and bereft of the right for their own opinion in the eighteenth century, they are quite independent and plainspoken in the film.

Thus, we see that the authors’ aim was far from making a film that could have conveyed the reality of that time. The Patriot is more directed at the entertainment of viewers.

The inaccuracies in depicting some of the battles during the war are also seen for the historians. The battle of Guilford Courthouse, for example, in reality was won by British forces, which were smaller than American ones, while in the film the battle was won by the Americans. Again such distortion of historical facts in favor of Americans proves the director’s intention to glorify the nation at any price, not taking into account the real history. Actually it might not have been done intentionally, but then it shows neglect towards the depiction of historical situation of that time. One of the critics rather exactly defined Emmerich’s film: His film does not depict the important historic events with a sense of realism. Instead it glorifies them with magical images, terrible villains and noble heroes that risk their lives for a greater cause (Ioshpe).

However, all these disadvantages are worth discussing in case we regard The Patriot as a film with a certain mission, a film that can educate or arouse conflicting emotions and make people argue and ponder over enduring fundamental principles of life. In case we regard this film as another occasion to watch a well-shot one, with quite interesting, captivating plot and eternal confrontation of brave heroes and mean villains, it is worth seeing. One more proof of these words is Mel Gibson’s opinion: If one were to adhere to historical accuracy all the way, you’d probably have the most boring two hours on earth, but firstly it’s entertainment and we’ve taken license with history to make it more compelling (Ross).

To abstract away from the discussed above disadvantages, as historical inaccuracy and the simplicity of images, the film has many advantages and may be named one of the large-scale epic films, touching a significant topic patriotism. Good actors’ play, particularly Mel Gibson’s and Heath Ledger’s, attracts viewers and contributes much to the popularity of the film. The film is rich in spectacular sceneries, great and impressive battles and touching episodes. It evokes patriotic feelings and with an engaging plot and great acting, this historical drama is sure to please grateful Americans and history buffs wanting an action-packed, but tender story about the birth of a new nation the United States of America (James). The authors of the film reached their aim they made a film that became popular, interesting for millions of people and that glorifies the American nation. That is quite different how they attained this and what important facts and details they overlooked.

To sum up, we see that the film The Patriot caused a large amount of different opinions and disputes. Being a box office hit and impressing viewers with great scenes, it arouses a number of questions. The most important issue is the historical accuracy of the film. Inexperienced people, without a deep knowledge of history will not see all the shortcomings in the film, some of which are quite subtle and some are on the surface. Not everybody will notice too independent for the eighteenth century behavior of women and the absence of slavery in the film, while almost everyone will parallel events in the film, happening in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War, with the events, characteristic of fascist regime during World War II. Perhaps common people do not know the course of the Revolutionary war, however, in my opinion, it is not the reason to distort the real facts in the favor of the Americans.

Undoubtedly we need such films that encourage us, remind us of the importance being patriotic and show real heroes, which are ready to die for the liberation of their nation. In whole, The Patriot educates viewers, telling the story of the beginning of the American nation, but we must admit that it does it one-sidedly, as well as it tells the story of the Madison’s family. We see the British as murders and sadists, though in any war different people with different destinies and characters fight. So, to my mind the film lacks more complicated and contradictory situations, which would make people feel, think and judge. Certainly, pursuing particular objects, as popularity of the film, the development of an idea, the creators of the film should not neglect all the details, especially historical. Only then, the film may contribute much to the cinematography and can pretend to receive an Oscar.

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