Celebration of American History and Heritage in The Patriot
The award winning movie, “The Patriot”, starring Mel Gibson as the main character Benjamin Martin, Heath Ledger as Benjamin Martin’s son Gabreil Martin and Jason Issacs as Colonel William Tavington, was directed by Roland Emmerich and later released in 2000. I watched this movie on a Saturday night with my step-dad who is a history fanatic. I chose to watch this film because of how much positive feedback I was given from fellow friends and family members who have watched the movie themselves, which all reassured me that this movie would tie perfectly with the historical theme of my paper, and simply be a “really good one.” They weren’t wrong! The historical theme displayed throughout the movie, “The Patriot”, covers the Revolutionary War ear, focusing primarily on the tactics used by the colonial militias, as well as British atrocities. By watching this movie, I think it’s going to benefit me on my AP exam because not only am I a visual learner, but this movie was genuinely intriguing and in its own way the scenes throughout the movie were educational, giving me things to remember it by. This movie definitely emphasized the role that colonial militias played in the war effort. I wasn’t aware of just how much the French aided the colonists, not only by sending over weapons and troops, but by sending prized military leaders that would come to train some of the colonial militias. Before watching, “The Patriot”, I had no idea what great amounts of effort, blood, and time was put into the Revolutionary War.
The movie begins with the main character, Benjamin Martin, and his family partaking in their normal routine on their plantation. Benjamin is a widowed veteran that is well known for his actions during the French and Indian War. Faced with war once more, the start of the Revolutionary War calls upon him to guide, lead, and take on such a challenge, but with all that he’s been through Begamin is well opposed to it and would rather not be involved whatsoever. Despite Benjamin’s strong feelings toward the war his oldest child, Gabriel Martin, decides he wants to fight for the cause of independence goes against his father’s wishes by joining the war. It is later on that Gabriel returns home wounded, followed by a group of redcoats who come in search for him trying to convict him of treason with a sentence of dead, more specifically hanged. Gabriel’s little brother, Thomas Matin, acts out in opposition and runs to Gabriel trying to save him and sadly, while doing, Thomas ends up shot and dead by Colonel Tavington. The result of such events and the loss of his very own son sparks overwhelming feelings of hatred, anger, and frustration in Benjamin Martin.
As a result of such loss, though Benjamin had previously convinced himself that he wanted nothing to do with the war before, he now finds himself wanting to fight against the British, and he goes on to do so. Benjamin strategically plans an attack on a group of British redcoats, the ones that killed Thomas, which become the major turning point in the movie because it marks Benjamin transition of opposition towards war to his determined involvement in it. After sending the rest of his children to live on their aunt’s plantation, Benjamin and Gabriel put together a militia. While recruiting men for the militia Gabriel sees Ann, his childhood friend, and the two quickly form a loving bond. Meanwhile, the militia under Benjamin Martin’s leadership soon completed numerous successful attacks on the British using unorthodox tactics to catch them off guard resulting in Benjamin earning the title of “The Ghost” by the British. Later, during one of the militia’s attacks, they realize Colonel Taviington has come more prepared than what they expected as a couple members of the militia were killed and others taken as prisoners, while the rest narrowly escape Tavington and his army. In attempts to save the men that were captured and regain power, Benjamin makes a peaceful agreement with Cornwallis to give him back his dogs and release the lieutenants and other persons of power in the British army that Benjamin Martin’s militia “captured.” Cornwallis agrees but realizes that Marin tricked him after it was too late.
With much rage, Cornwallis tells Tavington that he wants him to capture and kill Benjamin Martin along with his militia, which then becomes another turning point as it establishes the intense rivalry between Tavington and Benjamin Martin, as Tavington now truly has it out for Benjamin. Tavington’s army begins killing innocent townsfolk including the loved ones and families of many of the men in the militia. When Benjamin realizes this, he orders a week long intermission for the militia. During this time Gabriel and Ann get married. Shortly after Ann returns home but is killed when Tavington and his army burned the church while she was being held in. This infuriates Gabriel, and he starts a movement with a few other members of the militia and they go off to fight Tavington’s army. Towards the end of the battle the only two left are Tavington and Gabriel. Gabriel makes a move and thinks he killed Tavington’s chances, but Tavington was fooling him and Gabriel, falling for it took his time finishing off Tavington, allowing him to make the first move and turn the tables killing Gabriel. Benjamin arrives too late to save his beloved son, Gabriel, and seemingly loses hope for a little while, but he soon decides that he will keep fighting for the cause so that the British can’t have the satisfaction of taking anything or anyone else away from him. Benjamin soon meets with the continental army and engages in a grueling and damaging battle, the militia suffers, but soon regains power with Benjamin Martin’s leadership and determination. Benjamin and Tavington are both out for each other, and eventually meet and engage in fierce battle using swords, Benjamin heroically defeats Tavington and Cornwallis retreats allowing for huge surge of optimism and nationalism for the cause for independence. The movie ends with Benjamin returning home to find his freed slaves and family working on rebuilding his home.
Though all the characters are fictional, Benjamin Martin, the main character, seems like he could be loosely based off many real historical figures from the Revolutionary War like Daniel Morgan, Elijah Clark, Thomas Sumter, Andrew Pickens, and more specifically Francis Marion. This is partly historically accurate as Benjamin Martin was a heroic militia leader in South Carolina in the movie, and Francis Marion too was a heroic militia leader in South Carolina reality. There were many real events portrayed in “The Patriot”, however many of these are not completely historically accurate as a result of Hollywood propaganda. For example, towards the end of the movie, the Battle of Cowpens and Battle of Guilford Courthouse as the tactics used and the results align with actual tactics and results from those battle in reality, but was highly influenced by Hollywood propaganda in the movie. There were many things that were not historically accurate in “The Patriot” because it was dramatized and a result of Hollywood propaganda. The most criticized example of this is a misrepresentation of British atrocities during the war. In the movie, the British killed prisoners of war, children, and women. They burned down a church filled with people in the movie. Though in reality the British may have killed innocent women, children, and prisoners of war, but it was undocumented that it was not to the extent decepticed in the movie, there was also no record of the British actually burning a church full of innocent townsfolk.
It seems that the director, Roland Emmerich’s, point of view regarding “The Patriot” is that American history should be celebrated, and we should be thankful for those that endure and fought through the Revolutionary War to establish America as an independent nation. I think that this movie was made a time of general stability in America to show and remind Americans of what these people did and went through to establish the independent America we know today, in an effort to promote and create a spark of patriotism and nationalism across the nation.
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