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The Patriot. 160 minutes, Certificate 15. Video Amazon Co UKDVD Amazon Co UK

Director: Roland Emmerich Screen Writer: Robert Rodat

Starring: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, Jason Isaacs, Tom WilkinsonBen Martin carries the Betsy Ross flag to victory!

THIS FILM deeply upset Daily Mail readers in its depiction of British redcoats as eighteenth century SS stormtroopers. Didn’t the SS lock the whole population of a troublesome village in a church in Oradour before setting it ablaze? Well, yes they did, but the British never actually did anything like that in America. Still, let’s not allow these quibbles to get in the way of a good story.   

Mel Gibson is Benjamin Martin, a prosperous South Carolina plantation owner, left in charge of seven children by his wife’s early death. Martin is a reluctant warrior as he has had a traumatic time in the Indian wars of some twenty years earlier and he knows the true horrors that war can bring on a community. He has his family to think about. He wants America to negotiate independence from the British. His teenage son, Gabriel, (Heath Ledger) joins the Continental Army.

The war soon comes literally to his doorstep. Gabriel is taken prisoner and ordered to be hanged by the villainous Colonel William Tavington, (Jason Isaacs). Tavington, by the way, is a dead ringer for our own beloved imperial overlord, Peter Mandelson. For good measure, Tavington orders that Martin’s house be burned down.  Martin rushes into the blazing house, rescues a selection of firearms and a tomahawk from his Indian-fighting days. He organises his remaining two young sons to ambush the Redcoats and free Gabriel. Together, father and son rejoin the Continental Arm. Benjamin sees that the Americans can never beat the British at their own set-piece battle tactics, so under the nom de guerre of "The Ghost," he rallies a militia company to wage a fierce guerrilla war on the British.

True patriotism is not about ideological abstractions; democracy, human rights, the ‘Constitution’, the ‘Republic’ or some other such humbug. First and foremost it is about the defence of our home, hearth and family and it extends from that to our kinsfolk. In this respect, Ben Martin is a true patriot.

This film could have been edited a bit more tightly. It’s nearly three hours long. Some of the battle scenes were a lot more gory and explicit than we really needed to see. Despite this and some shameless manipulation of the audience, I loved this film. No regular Ulster Nation reader could fail to enjoy it, although some like myself, might reflect on the irony that the United States, in its current role of ‘indispensable nation,’ now takes on the role of the hated Redcoats in far-flung outposts around the globe.


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