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Movie Review

The Patriot

MPAA Rating: R for strong war violence

Reviewed by: Ken James

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Mature Teen to Adult
2 hr. 40 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Poster—The Patriot
Featuring: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Tcheky Karyo, Jason Isaacs, Lisa Brenner
Director: Roland Emmerich
Producer: Dean Devlin, Mark Gordon, Gary Levinsohn
Distributor: Columbia Tristar

Mel Gibson is Benjamin Martin, a South Carolina widower living in a time when his neighbors favor war with England. But he does not favor war. It’s not that he’s a pacifist; as an ex-Army captain he is famous around the land for his brutal tactics in previous battles with the French. It’s his role as a father that convinces him to oppose war with England. He knows the price that will be paid on their family; the fighting that will be waged on their land. But when the British mercilessly kill Benjamin’s son, he becomes compelled to fight for justice.

The American colonies quickly become engaged in battle with the British. Martin gathers together a vigilante army who regularly engage the British in ambushes and non-traditional fighting that help even the score and cause fear to strike the British army. Plenty of brutal and bloody violence is seen throughout “The Patriot,” as these men and others involved in various intense battles fight it out to the bitter end.

Scene from The Patriot.

Technically, “The Patriot” is excellent. 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. Even those not so interested in history will be compelled by the story of the underdog pressing on through impossible circumstances. I doubt the British will be too pleased with “The Patriot”. Their countrymen during this time in history are portrayed as largely merciless and brutal, shallow and traditional, caring not for the innocent, but merely interested in the ends despite the means.

From a Christian perspective, there is very little to be cautious about in “The Patriot”. For those not comfortable with brutal violence, stay away from this one (though it is not as graphic as the similar “Braveheart”, ironically also starring Mel Gibson as the underdog leader). For others, “The Patriot” is well worth your time. As in “Saving Private Ryan”, Americans are again given a realistic view of war. We are truly indebted to our forefathers who bravely fought united for our freedom. Have you hugged a vet today?

The language is kept to a minimum—only a few instances of d*mn and h*ll. There is no hint of sexual impropriety or nudity. Christianity plays an important role during this time in the history of America, and in this film it is shown prominently and positively. Even the hero is seen praying on many occasions. Also, a Christian minister takes up arms against the British and maintains great compassion for those around him as he fights a long war. Scenes of crosses and churches are often. Morality is applauded.

War is never pretty, and that truth is preached throughout this film. A strong anti-slavery message is also present as initial contempt for black Americans becomes true honor through many instances of sacrifice and bravery. “The Patriot” contains many redeeming qualities; an excellent choice for most teens and adults.

Viewer Comments
This movie was absolute brilliance from start to finish. …The film was a tearjerker, an action movie and a war film all rolled into one, with just enough comedy to keep it uplifting. And it did it perfectly, too. Not only is it a brilliant piece of moviemaking, but a truly god-honoring film as well, accurately portraying our forefathers as having a strong foundation in God. It’s a very brutal movie, but not as gory as you might think… My Ratings: [4/5]
—Ben Berntsen, age 16
Although I appreciate military courage regardless of the cause being fought for, this film brings up some interesting issues. Early on, during a state convention, Benjamin Martin asks why he should trade one tyrant 3000 miles away for 3000 tyrants one mile away. That’s a good question. Mr. Hahne is well informed for age 26, and his comment is correct: The American Revolution can’t be justified in the light of Romans 13:1-7 (written by a citizen of Rome, with rulers like Nero and Caligula). Maybe God took away England’s colonies as punishment for her profiteering from the “triangular trade” in slaves and sugar on Caribbean islands (where slaves were deliberately worked to death because it was cheaper to replace them than to support them in old age). But we know (from I and II Kings etc.) that when God allows a bad ruler to be ousted, the usurper is still guilty of rebellion. Colonies, by definition, exist for the benefit of the mother country. But the American colonists decided which laws they’d obey, declaring taxation acts (including tariffs whose purpose was to raise revenue rather than to regulate trade) invalid. Those are the acts of rebels, not patriots. Then the Declaration of Independence asserted that one people may separate from another people whenever they choose—a very radical idea. All the States reconfirmed that position a few years later when they, one by one, seceded from the original United States (formed under the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union”) and created an “alternate” United States (under the 1787 Constitution). Although the U.S. is now a world power and has often been the oppressor rather than the oppressed, it still theoretically upholds the “self-determination” principles of the Declaration—which means that American Christians trying to obey Romans 13 are faced with a dilemma because the U.S. demands our loyalty yet denies the Biblical basis for that loyalty. This situation gives us conflicting senses of duty, similar to those Benjamin Martin wrestled with, and there are no easy answers. My Ratings: [2½/4½]
Brett Willis, age 49
…like “Last Of The Mohicans,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “BraveHeart” all wrapped into one. It was insightful as well as exciting, and they managed to even work in Christianity in this movie… My Ratings: [5/4½]
—Edward N., age 31
I was of two minds while watching “The Patriot.” First, I can’t see Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the man who said “Love your enemies” enjoying this film. Benjamin Martin doesn’t join the fight to defend his rights. He fights for revenge. On the other hand what father wouldn’t do that. Mine would have. I know that I sit here typing this because several hundred men and women put their lives on the line to defend their freedom and mine, but self-defense and vengeance are two different things in my book… one justifiable the other not. Mel Gibson gives one of his best performances, but the movie is also disgustingly graphic, *much more so* than “Braveheart”. It’s not a film I’m going to want to see again. My Ratings: [2½/4]
—Denise Inglis, age 36
Important theme, but too gory and too long—I’d save it for video. On the plus side, “The Patriot” does rekindle one’s appreciation for liberty and the cost of aquiring it, and “The Patriot” does have fine acting. However, I doubt the historical accuracy of a number the film’s events and characters. In comparison to a recent film, “Gladiator” was both less violent and less depressing than “The Patriot”. Worthwhile for the message, acting and general history; caution flags on the continuous gore and historical inaccuracy of the subplots. My Ratings: [2/3½]
—Todd Adams, age 32
To me this was not a film that captured the entire essence of the Revolutionary War; however, I was not dissapointed because of this. It definitely presented the movie from one perspective, meaning that it created a sort of good guy/bad guy movie, the bad guys being the British. If I were British, I probably might walk out feeling as if my heritage was depicted in this movie from a biased perspective (with the exception of Cornwallis who was not portrayed as ruthless as the rest). It does not tell a story of the Revolutionary War; rather, it tells a story of an American family and its reactions to the Revolutionary ar… My Ratings: [3½/4]
—Jonathan C. Haeger, age 19
This is one of the finest movies I have seen in many years. While it graphically portrayed the horrors of war it realistically depicted the courage, sacrifice, and determination of our forefathers who fought so valiantly for the freedom of this nation. The movie promoted love and respect for the family (parents and children), friends, neighbors, America, and God. Because of the brutality of war I would not recommend this movie for anyone under the age of 14. Some of the images of the battle scenes were so violent and true to life I frequently had to turn my head or close my eyes. But these scenes impressed upon me the true cost of the freedom and liberty I enjoy today and made me appreciate those who “held firm” and “carried on to the finish” for the sake of a cause worth fighting. It was an outstanding movie from both an historical and a moral point of view…
—Ann Richard, age 51
…excellent, very realistic. I also appreciated the love Mel had for his family and his greif for his past sins. I must say however that in my opinion, the movie was spoiled by his “relationship” with his sister-in-law, who also I thought was extremely under dressed throughout the film, in al, but maybe one scene she was in. That one aspect of the movie tainted my opinion of the rest of it, and I think the movie could have at least been just as good if not much better, if it had been left out.
—Dennis Rogers
not for everyone… I really liked this movie. It helps me to comprehend the heavy cost people have paid throughout history for freedom. “The Patriot,” though, may not be a movie for everyone. In the genre of “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan,” it’s a film that shows what happens in times of war in disturbing, yet exacting detail. It reveals the evil that spews forth from men who abuse authority for their own unending greed. And it also shows the depths of human frailty of ordinary, good people who, under such harrowing circumstances, find themselves wanting to be honorable yet overwhelmed by such cold, heartless feelings they never knew existed within them. I do not particularly care for so much violence, but accept the violence that pertains to the war reality. I was very grateful for the absence of bad language. I also deeply appreciated seeing a man portrayed as a normal, hardworking family man, who cared for his children deeply. It was good to see an imperfect man, trying to do what is right, whether it is in relationship to his children, or his free “slaves”, or in relation to his duty to this war. Benjamin Martin relied on God to give him the wisdom and the strength to do what he should.and asked forgiveness when he failed. The acting was very good, it was beautifully filmed, and I would highly recommend everyone seeing this movie. My Ratings: [5/5]
—Cathy Frueh, age 38
Decapitations, amputations and vengence galore. Probably realistic to actual historical carnage. Captures what depths we can sink to when consumed by trauma and grief. Attempts to not deify American revolutionists, and somewhat avoids demonizing all the British. True to the reality that being a “Christian” can be an ambiguous role when thrust into warfare. Some religious people see it the duty to fight even take lives, others feel pacifism the best route. Although Martin is seen as heroic, he is portrayed as tainted by his past “sins”.
—Dale M., age 29
respectful to Christianity… …this was the best movie I’ve seen in a long time. I was amazed at how respectful they were to God and Christian values throughout the movie as well. There were very few profanities and no sex whatsoever. Although we studied the Revolutionary War in school this past year, I never really gained an understanding of that period in history until I saw this movie. Yes, it is gory. EXTREMELY gory at times. A man loses his head to a cannonball and another loses his leg to one as well… Mel Gibson’s character butchers the body of one redcoat and sends a hatchet into the forehead of another one (proving that he does indeed have quite a nasty temper). War scenes aside, the plot is wonderful and you come to connect with the characters and how the war affects each one of them. If you get the chance, definitely go see “The Patriot”. If you have a weak stomach, however, remember to close your eyes. My Ratings: [4½/5]
—Claire, age 14
left with a fresher sense of patriotism… “The Patriot” is a combination of “Braveheart” in its dramatic quality and “Saving Private Ryan” for its patriotism. Mel Gibson delivers yet another Oscar caliber performance. I found it suitable for anyone over age 14 or so and it earned its R-rating due only to its realistically graphic nature. All characters made the viewer love or hate them. I recommend this movie to every American as it left me with a fresher sense of patriotism and understanding of our quest for independence. My Ratings: [4/5]
—Andrew, age 17
“heart-wrenching”… Get a baby sitter and grab a couple boxes of tissue. This movie was heart wrenching, especially for me as a familly man. In addition, this film certainly was not made for children. However, there are messages contained in the film which are admirable and outstanding by Hollywood standards. “…and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t ask God for foriveness…” Benjamin is experiencing the same kind of inner turmoil as we all do when we have sinned. We forget that we have been purchased by the blood of Christ. We go through life reminding the Lord of the things we have done; those things for which He continually reminds us we are forgiven. Yes, it is very realistic in its portrayal of war brutality. As a child of the 60’s however, it is a welcome alternative to be reminded that ALL wars have atrocities, not just those fought in the last half of the last century. My Ratings: [5/5]
—Daniel Gullo, age 20
“in desperate need of better editing”… While occasionally exciting, “The Patriot” runs overlong and provides more engagement during events leading up to the climax than the climax can actually provide. The film is in desperate need of better editing (there were many scene entirely superfluous to the story)—not a horrible sin, but for a just-under-three-hour event, not a glorious success either. Just like most Devlin and Emmerich productions, cliches abound. Also, the film tries so hard to jerk a tear that I ended up resenting the merest hint of emotionalism. In any case, it did keep my attention (thought not raptly). The reviewer mentions a minister taking up arms against the bad British Empire as something of moral acclaim. I was actually saddened that one who preaches the Word of God (and supposedly knows it) would ignore the very words of our Savior (“Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”) and take up arms against his own government (against Paul’s admonition that it is God who has set the government over His people) for the greedy sake of a colonial aristocracy that preferred to pay less taxes. Rather than taking a violent stand against the authority that God had placed over him and his colonial congregation, he ought to have been exhorting his flock in the Gospel and encouraging them to bear up under suffering (from mild economic tyrancy) and rejoice for it! Alas, it was not so. And I fear too many Christians feel the liberty we now experience in our nation, justifies that massive riot against our British rulers we like to call the Revolutionary War. My Ratings: [3/3]
—Seth T. Hahne, age 26
“great moral issues”… I really enjoyed this movie. After reading about the violence shown within the picture, I was very skeptical about whether I would enjoy it. Due to the violence, I definitely wouldn’t take small children to it, but I found the violence to be mostly underplayed (one scene, where a distraught father, takes out his pain on a British solider, hitting his skull over and over again with an axe; battle skimishes). Great moral issues regarding war and the right to kill (murder) fellow human beings in times of war. The aspects of war are shown to be brutal and awful, no glory in this film. You will laugh, cry, and really enjoy this movie as you get a feeling for the American Revolution and the trials that our forefathers underwent. My Ratings: [4½/4½]
—Hilary Ingram, age 15
“Awesome movie!”… This is definitely one of Mel Gibson best roles yet! Due to war violence this is not for young kids. All together I counted 5 explitives: 3 “d” words and 2 “h” words. This movie sends great messages about the unity of family, sacrifice, love, honor, commitment, and courage. Gibson’s character is shown praying and Christianity is prevalent throughout the film. It makes you look at July 4th a little differently. My Ratings: [3½/4½]
—Daniel Rodriguez, age 14
“a must see”… This is a must-see for every Freedom Loving Christian in America. I urge you to tell your friends and family about this sturring movie. What will WE do when the anti-christians tell us NOT to speak on sin, homosexuality, or adultry? Will we “burn in our church?” or stand and fight for our God given freedom of speech? Ask yourself if the fight is worth it… My Ratings: [4½/5]
—Jody Kitts, age 39
my all time favorite movie”. (yes, Saving Private Ryan was close, but this one had a better story line) This movie had a gripping story that kept me on the edge of my seat for two and a half hours. I was skeptical about Mel Gibson making a serious movie after his recent releases, but he delivered. His performance was the best I’ve seen all year. The visual effects were great, and the music really set the theme. As for objectional content, there is some to be cautious of. The movie was a little gory, but if you stomached Saving Private Ryan you can definetely handle this. Small children (and some adults) may be frightened with some scenes. There were about five uses of objectionable language, but not as intense as what you would expect for an “R” rated war movie. You will not walk away from this movie without being affected in some way. Again, my all time favorite movie. My Ratings: [SLIGHTLY Objectionable / 5]
—Drew Bowman, age 14