Judge Ryan Keefer thinks that if you don't like this movie in high definition, then the terrorists have won.
What would you do if they destroyed your home, threatened your family. Where would you draw the line?
In 2000, a sprawling, epic film set in the Revolutionary War era was sprung on audiences. Named The Patriot and starring a then-likable guy named Mel Gibson (of Lethal Weapon fame), the film made over $100 million and introduced the world to an Australian import named Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain). So upon further reflection on a film that received a minor boost in running time, how is it now and in high definition?
Facts of the Case
In The Patriot, written by Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan) and directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day), Gibson plays Benjamin Martin, a man who has seen combat in prior years. He lives in South Carolina as a widower to several children, among them Gabriel (Ledger) and Nathan (Trevor Morgan, The Sixth Sense), both of whom want to join a growing resistance against British oppression. A battle that was miles away before comes increasingly closer to home, and when a British Colonel named Tavington (Jason Isaacs, Black Hawk Down) kills one of the children in cold blood, Benjamin takes up arms to help repel the British encroachment.
Not having watched The Patriot in some time and forgetting what type of inclusions made this extended cut, several things struck me about the film. The first was the overall grim nature of the battles that are not seen. Bodies float along a riverside, and later are frozen solid during the winter months, helping to give a fuller, more complete idea about the type of horrors the militias were up against, not the least of which was a menacing British Army. The second was that Gibson's performance was more soft-spoken than I remember. He says a lot to the children with the looks he gives them when they say that they want to be a part of the revolution. When he makes a deal with Nathan about when he can join the Army, Benjamin's look emotes some annoyance, but it's also regret of being put in such a position.
Gibson is in large chunks of the film, but he is complemented by some fine acting. Ledger shows flashes of the brilliance that he displays now, and Isaacs' continued casting as a villain is made clear based on his performance from this film. In a smaller role, as Benjamin's ally from earlier conflicts, is Colonel Burwell (Chris Cooper, Breach), and as the head of the British forces, Cornwallis (Tom Wilkinson, Batman Begins) is a man of restraint, but when it comes to unleashing the cruelty of Tavington, he does it reluctantly, but necessarily. His restraint almost puts him on par with Benjamin, and the two seem to strike a grudging respect to one another. Among other friendly faces in supporting roles are Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck), Donal Logue (The Tao of Steve) and Adam Baldwin (Full Metal Jacket), who plays a colonist friendly to the English cause of trying to locate Martin and his troops.
The Patriot was entered into the Sony line of high-end, barebones line of titles known as the Superbit collection when it first came out on video, and on Blu-ray, this 2.40:1 MPEG-4 encoded 1080p transfer is in an elite group of titles that is worth showing off to friends. The only thing that makes me take off a point or two is the occasional film grain distraction in some of the moving shots. But long shots are outstanding, revealing a new layer of fatigue in Mel's face, and the green fields around the house look amazing. I'm not really sure just how mamy computer generated effects were incorporated in the film, but I'll go out on a limb and say that this is the best looking live action film on Blu-ray right now. The uncompressed PCM mix for the film raises the bar as well. Sure, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is more than capable, but the PCM brings the awesome to the film, especially during the battle sequence. I'm thinking in particular of the one where the cannonball takes the guy's head off, but any battle in the film benefits.
As far as the extras go, the commentary track has been eschewed along with some stills galleries, and a couple of featurettes have been retained for this release, one of which covers the production of the film and another on the historical detail. Each run about 10 minutes long and are somewhat topical and don't add too much depth to the production.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The common dismissal of The Patriot seemed to be that it was Braveheart revisited, and I agree with that to a certain extent. But Benjamin's focus in The Patriot is more along protecting and caring for his family, whereas William Wallace was fighting more for his country's freedom, with a minor personal stake. But at almost three hours, this film almost bursts at the seams with scenes that aren't necessary, bordering on predictable, and in terms of tone, becomes a bit of a marathon. The character development of Gabriel is one that is almost painful but follows conventional storytelling.
Well if you've got any of the previous versions of The Patriot, chances are you've made up your mind about the film. But, hey, with the recent announcement of a price cut for the Playstation 3 (which, by the way, doubles as a Blu-ray player), you're getting a movie that technically looks and sounds as good as anything on the market right now. It's a definite recommended upgrade.
The court has to side with the high definition technology on this one, and sentences Sony to community service for the double-dip.
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• "The Art Of War" Featurette
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