In the tradition of Mel Gibson's earlier historical epics like "Braveheart", here's another classy movie which deals with emotions and adventure.
Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) is a retired war hero, living in South Carolina, who is revered by his colleagues and haunted by his memories. He now lives peacefully on his plantation with his seven children. But his dreams are not to be, because the American war of Independence has begun. Martin opts for peace but his eldest son Gabriel (Heath Ledger) enlists. War erupts and the colonists are losing. One night Gabriel manages to get home while carrying some dispatches and that very night the war reaches Martin's house. Despite helping the British wounded, Martin is doomed due to the brutal and ambitious Colonel Tavington (Isaacs). Gabriel is taken away to be hanged, Martin's younger son Howard killed by the Colonel and their house burnt. That finally riles up Martin who then disembarks on a campaign to save the cause, his country and his family.
The rest of the movie deals with Martin's efforts at rallying the local people and fighting war as guerrillas. All this is against the growing desperation of the British, who finally resort back to inhuman tactics after being duped by Martin several times. In between all the blood and gore, Gabriel gets married, gets killed and in the end gets revenged.
The movie is very gripping and every attention is paid to detail. The typical Southern atmosphere is prevalent and the plight of the people vividly described. However, one wishes that director Emmerich didn't pay quite so much attention to the fight scenes, which tend to be a little too brutal at times.
The plot is simple but with delicate nuances which keep you occupied through the duration of the movie. The constant threat to the freedom fighters and their seemingly futile attempts evoke empathy for the characters, among the viewers.
The characters are well defined, especially Martin's. Despite the controversy about the real nature of the man on whom the movie is based, the character in the movie is quite something. Alternating between brutal savagery when provoked enough, to repentance for his "sins", Gibson gives a brilliant performance and is truly the centerpiece of the movie. The other actors provide enough flavour to give the flick some spice.
So, if you can stand some bloodshed and have the time to spare, here is one movie you can definitely enjoy and remember.This article was first published on 10 Aug 2000.