“If you mean by patriot, am I angry about taxation without representation, well, yes I am. Should the American colonies govern themselves independently? I believe that they can, and they should. But if you are asking me, am I willing to go to war with England? Well, then the answer is most definitely NO!” – The Patriot The Patriot was directed and produced by Roland Emmerich in 2000 and filmed in Charleston, South Carolina where parts of the movie were actually based. The movie stars Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, and Joely Richardson. Set during the American Revolution, French and Indian war-hero Benjamin Martin leads a makeshift army of peasants, slaves, a minister, and assorted other irregulars after his son Thomas is killed by Colonel Tavington of the Green Dragoon. The Revolutionary War began in 1775 in Lexington, Massachusetts when British troops attempted to stifle the rumors of an uprising among the colonials. After six years of fighting, General Cornwallis surrendered in Yorktown when his supplies were cut off by the French navy and he was surrounded by American troops. The Treaty of Paris was signed two years later declaring the colonies “free and independent.”
The Patriot was made to depict the life of an American family during the War for American Independence. Although Benjamin Martin was a fictional character, some of the battles he took part in and some of the people he interacted with in the movie were historical figures. Mel Gibson’s character is said to be a merge of several historic people; Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter, and Andrew Pickens. In the movie there is also almost a complete lack of the Loyalists. A large part of the population of the Carolinas and Georgia remained loyal to Britain, and a lot of the fighting took place there between the Tories and Whigs. The film actually only shows one Loyalist soldier, Captain Wilkins in Colonel Tavington’s dragoons. Tavington himself is based on Banastre Tarleton, who commanded the British Legion, a Loyalist regiment. One of the battles in the film is based on the Battle of Cowpens and the final battle on the surrender of Cornwallis.
The main protagonist of The Patriot is Benjamin Martin, who is portrayed as a plantation owner who was widowed with seven children. He’s troubled by his
past as a veteran of the French and Indian War, so he does what he can to avoid fighting in the war knowing the consequences surrounding it. When his oldest son enlists, and his second born son is killed, he takes it upon himself to join and leads a band of militia in guerrilla warfare against British forces. Even though he is a patriotic man and would do almost anything for his country, Benjamin’s ultimate reason for joining the fight was for revenge on Tavington.
After Benjamin’s son Thomas is killed by Tavington and his eldest son Gabriel, is taken prisoner, Benjamin makes the decision to take two of his youngest boys and save Gabriel. He told his sons Nathan and Samuel, “Aim small, miss small” as they picked off British soldiers one by one. This was one of the moral dilemmas I found in the movie. Benjamin Martin asked his boys to kill people at such a young age right after they had just watched one of their older brothers be murdered ruthlessly in their own front yard. After the attack, his sons were both visibly upset over what their father had asked them to do. These young boys were asked to do the jobs of men which is why I found this as one of the most noticeable moral dilemmas.
The movie was very compelling because it took a very notable piece of American history and based an exciting, action packed story around actual events. It was filled with relatable emotions and kept you interested. Overall The Patriot is a captivating film with something in it for everyone and is one of those classic tales that will keep it around for some time.
1. St. George, William R., Jr. “The Patriot: Movie Review.” Journal of American History 87.3 (2000): n. page. Historycooperative.org. Web. 31 Aug. 2013. <http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jah/87.3/mr_2.html>.
2. IMDb.com. Amazon.com, n.d. Web. 31 Aug. 2013.
3. Keene, Jennifer D. “The War for American Independence.” Visions of America: A History of the United States. 2nd ed. N.p.: Pearson, 2012.
4. The Patriot. Dir. Roland Emmerich. Perf. Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, and Joely Richardson. Columbia Pictures Corporation, 2000. DVD.
[ 1 ]. Quote by Benjamin Martin from The Patriot
[ 2 ]. www.imdb.com/title/tt0187393/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
[ 3 ]. Visions of America Chapter 4 (p 118)
[ 4 ]. Journal of American History vol. 87, no. 3
[ 5 ]. Quote by Benjamin Martin from The Patriot