What an incredible film.
-Review by David Bruce


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and was updated on May 22, 2005

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"I have long feared that my sins would return to visit me"
One of the several scenes of Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) at prayer.
David BruceThe Patriot -page 2
-Review by David Bruce


There is a very different relationship between the father and son. The son is the same idealist the father was at that younger age. Sort of a time warp, in a way. We learn much about Benjamin through his son.

Although there is no actual journey in the story, it is about a very difficult inner journey. The film is very honest about what it means to be a war hero. It is about the depths that we can sink to.

And so it goes from generation to generation, the next generation never learning the lessons of the previous.
Benjamin puts together a band of cutthroats, each with a very different personality -- which adds to the richness of the story and film.

This band guns down the British through the element of surprise. And they kill everyone -- unless there is a surrender.

Throughout the entire film Benjamin is seen praying for guidance, help and forgiveness.

The story never lets us forget that war and violence prey on the innocent.
Benjamin never forgets the reason why he is fighting the war: his family!
There are several points in the film where there isn't a dry eye in the house. This is one of them. Benjamin's daughter goes from hating her "papa" to loving him in a powerful scene.
Col. William Tavington makes his evil even more horrific by gathering all the townspeople together in the church, locking the doors, and burning them alive. He later shoots the pastor. The story uses symbols like this to suggest a spiritual battle.
It is in the last battle scene that Benjamin and the evil Col. finally have at it. Prepare for some surprises. I will not tell you what happens.

Victory comes through the high cost of death. Hmm, sounds like a spiritual principle to me.

It is an important well made film. Take the family (10 and up).


Date: Fri, 18 May 2001
From: Joseph

Maybe it's because I'm half British, but I have to disagree with those praising "The Patriot" as a good movie with Christian values. God said plainly, "Vengeance is mine" and all this movie is about is revenge. In fact, the director has to keep killing off innocent people just to keep Mel going. God said, "Children obey your parents" but in this movie they flatly disobey (and are disrespectful to) Dad and in the end it says, see your children were right and Mel at last 'sees it their way'. Plus, the premise of the entire thing goes against another Biblical order, "Fear thou the Lord and the king, and do not meddle with those given to change". Had this command been obeyed there would have been no atrocities. A parent taking his children out to kill people deeply disturbed me, it seemed to say that he cared nothing for the welfare of the two younger ones if he could save the oldest. The first boy to die acted foolishly; the equivalent of jumping in front of a moving truck and the oldest son lost his life simply by following in Dad's footsteps and letting hatred and lust for revenge get the better of him. All I saw in this movie was hatred, nothing of patriotism. I pray others will not pattern their lives after the heroes in this movie but will give vengeance to that infinite good and gracious being, "by whom kings reign and princes decree justice".
Email address is

Subject: Great movie
Date: Mon, 9 Oct 2000
From: Andréa Wilde

Thank you very, very much for your comments on The Patriot. Having been sick with all the negative reviews, I was immenselly happy to find this site. Sadly, many failed to comprehend this compelling, heart-wrenching movie, despising it as a mere popcorn flick. I've read wonderful and insightful reviews here and it's refreshing to know that other people feel like me regarding The Patriot. I only wish it had the critical acclaim it deserves.
Andréa Farias Wilde, Porto Alegre - Brazil

Date: Sun, 1 Oct 2000
From: Vanessa, California

I went to see the Patriot expecting to be entertained. I was rocked emotionally and mentally. The Patriot doesn't settle for comfortable cliches (some of the most common in war movies are the blameless hero and the battle without any aftermath for the "winners"). At no point does it allow you to see war as glorious or clean. It grants no immunity from harm to the protagonists.

Although at least one person apparently felt that the movie attempted to turn viewers against the English, I found myself feeling uncomfortable sympathy for both sides. Indeed, though I found myself experiencing a most uncomfortable indignation, wrath, helplessness, and even hatred for Tavington because of his behavior, I felt sympathy for the British general and horror at the brave way the regulars went to their deaths. At the same time, my palms sweated for Benjamin and Gabriel, and my heart cried out for each of them as they lost those dear to them.

Another strong point about the movie is that it allows for multiple definitions of patriot, courage, and separates good and evil from friend and enemy. Both Gabriel and Benjamin are patriots: Gabriel the traditional firebrand who leaps at the chance to fight for his country, Benjamin the un-traditional nurturer who would rather preserve his family and community than do anything else. We see traditional battle-courage as the men go to war, and the less-publicized home-courage as Charlotte protects the Martin children and as Ann and her fellow townsmen burn for fighting the British. Even friends and enemies don't fall into the usual respectively-good-or-evil mold movies usually go for. Instead, a neighbor ("friend") allows fear to get the better of him and turns evil, riding at Tavington's side. Even though he's not innately cruel, he does nothing to oppose evil when he faces it. Additionally, the British general Cornwallis, while classified as the enemy, generally behaves himself with honor. (I say generally, because he does eventually encourage Tavington to use "any means necessary" to get rid of Martin, without checking what those means are.)

Some possible connotations of burning crosses:
1. Gibson played a highlander in Braveheart.
2. Could the fiery cross represent the wrath of God against sin?
3. Highlanders of old were said to have fired crosses to call their clansmen to arms. The burning crosses in The Patriot could signal both a martial call to avenge the murdered townsmen and a call to oppose evil in the sense of spiritual warfare.

Finally, as a historic re-enactor, I have to note that the costumes and props were incredibly well-researched. Someone also had the very good sense to hire Mark Baker, the same man who trained Daniel Day-Lewis for The Last of the Mohicans (the "reloading on the run" sequence was designed by Baker), to train Gibson, Ledger, and another actor (whose name I don't recall) to shoot Revolutionary War firearms. Baker and another consultant also re-designed Gibson's shooting bag for more efficient use.
What an incredible movie! -Vanessa, California

Subject: A teens movie????
Date: 4 Sep 2000
From: David

I really want to see the movie the patriot. My dad said it is to violent and I cant watch it until I'm 18. Would you recommend this to a 13 year old??? Now I just cant wait to be 18.

Response: Yes I would, however do as your dad says.

Subject: A bit of historical background
Date: Fri, 25 Aug 2000
From: "Joe A."

Hi David - it's me again (gotten tired of me yet? :) ) Being from South Carolina, I wanted to supply a bit of historical background that might be of interest to anyone who goes to see "The Patriot". While the characters of Benjamin and Col. Tavington are, of course, fictional, they're based on real, historical personages; Francis Marion, the American guerrilla leader who became famous as "the Swamp Fox", and who to this day is a deeply revered figure in the Palmetto State, and on the British side, the infamous Col. Banastre Tarleton, who organized and led Tarleton's Legion. Tarleton was, by all accounts, nearly as bad of a SOB (if you'll pardon the profanity) as Tavington is presented in the film. I think, in fact, that this is another reason why "The Patriot" is so valuable; it gives people a good look at what was actually the fiercest theatre of operations in the war. A lot of people forget that, after Monmouth Court House, there was never again a pitched battle between the two main field armies north of the Potomac River. In 1779-1781, the focus of the war shifted southward, to Virginia and the Carolinas, and South Carolina found itself right in the middle of the frying pan.

The campaign opened with the British capturing both Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, and then moving inland with the Tories (the American loyalists) to suppress Continental resistance - which is where, of course, Benjamin Martin and his family come in. I can't comment on the battle of Camden, South Carolina (which was such a colossal screwup for the Americans that it makes me suspect that Benedict Arnold, traitor or nor, is really the person we have to thank for our victory at Saratoga - Gen. Horatio Gates was the American field commander at Saratoga and Camden), but I've been to several of the most notable Revolutionary battlefields in the Carolinas - Guilford Court House (in the modern-day suburbs of Greensboro, North Carolina), King's Mountain on the North/South Carolina border, and Cowpens, South Carolina (which is located northeast of Spartanburg and Greenville).

While certain details of the battles of Camden and Cowpens have, of course, been fictionalized for dramatic purposes, it's no fiction that Cowpens was one of the most decisive battles of the Revolution. Indeed, Cowpens has often been referred to as a "Cannae in miniature", seeing that Gen. Daniel Morgan, the Continental commander on the scene, used the same double-envelopment tactic that Hannibal employed to crush the Roman legions. Tarleton's Legion was wrecked at Cowpens, and Tarleton himself narrowly escaped capture. Thereafter, the Continentals had much less trouble suppressing British and Tory activity in South Carolina. A further note: Guilford Court House, which took place a couple of months later, is technically counted as a British victory. This is true only in the narrowest possible sense, as the British held possession of the battlefield at the end of the day's fighting.

However, Cornwallis' force had been well and thoroughly savaged by Gen. Nathaniel Greene's troopers, who withdrew in good fighting order and were ready to return to the fray, whereas the British were not only in no condition to continue the battle, they were no longer capable of carrying on their Carolinas campaign. Cornwalls is reported to have quoted Pyrrhus' famous aphorism: "Another such victory and we are ruined!" In fact, Guilford Court House can reasonably be seen as having been the prelude to Yorktown. -Joe-

Subject: My comment on The Patriot
Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2000
From: Gary A. Valenzuela La Paz - Bolivia

Hi Mr. David Bruce As a fanatic moviegoer, I found your site and it seemed one of the best that there are in the net about movies. It pointed me things that I used to miss.

I recently saw the film "The Patriot" and I must agreed with you that this is a film that will last in my memory for a very long time. It is about family, about war, and about to find the courage needed to defend those things that most of times we gave for granted. I only want to add two very symbolic scenes as a symbol of hate. 2 scenes with burning crosses

1) in the top of the burning church and

2) A burning cross when Benjamin enters in the charred ruins of the same church in one of the windows of the church.
Gary A. Valenzuela La Paz - Bolivia
PS: Please include my e-mail:

Date: Sun, 23 Jul 2000
From: Romi

I have seen The Patriot 2x, so far, and plan to see it many more times. I was totally immersed in this film. Although the character, Benjamin Martin, is not an historical figure, he personifies family man, farmer, reluctant warrior that many of our forefathers were. He is obviously a Christian and regrets his past deeds in an earlier war. No sane person ever prefers to go to war; sometimes it is the only answer to tyranny. As for the brutality shown in this film--my response is, "War is Hell" and those who disregard or forget History are doomed--or damned--to repeat it. Vengeance can be a strong motivation and I believe it is more than understandable. I would react similarly if I saw my son murdered before my eyes, and I consider myself a Christian.

Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000
From: Liz, Columbia

Contrary to all of the other reviewers, I have not seen the film yet. However, based on all of the previews I have seen and what I have read on this web site, I can't wait to see it. My one observation at this point is that it reminds me SO MUCH of one of my favorite movies of all times..."Shennandoah" with Jimmy Stewart as the father of many sons (and one daughter) whose wife also died during child birth. He resisted becoming involved in the Civil War but was dragged into it as well. Anyone else see this parallel?
Liz, Columbia

Response: I think you are right.

Subject: Total disagreement
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2000
From: Jaime

I would like to address the comments of two viewers in particular. Jennifer said:"For their father to view their loss as some kind of personal retribution actually takes away the value of their deaths and their choices and their individuality." What I saw was Benjamin believing that his sons represent the man he wishes he had been, the man he struggles to become. For him they are the image of honor, courage, and decency. Their loss at first seems to symbolize that his attempts to refine his spirit are futile, doomed. However, when he takes up Gabriel's tattered flag, he isn't so much taking up the cause of revolution as he is affirming that the goodness he saw in Gabriel *can* prevail. That goodness doesn't die. He is donning the mantle of his fallen son, proclaiming that this quest, this fight, for goodness is what matters whether he ultimately achieves it or not.

Likewise, I saw Gabriel's hesitation over Tavington's injured body as a battle between his innate sense of honor and his newly discovered instinct for revenge. He is about to succumb to the very rage and bloodlust which in his father so appalled him. Not surprisingly, this inner conflict costs him his life. We wish he had not been tempted away from his personal code, that he would have finished off Tavington in a more honorable fashion and as humanely as possible,with a single shot, instead of feeling drawn to avenge himself, thereby bloodying his soul as well as his hands. Remember that Benjamin joined the Cause in order to watch over Gabriel, to protect him. In doing so he ends up being influenced, changed, by Gabriel's higher values; in a sense, Gabriel is protecting Benjamin from his baser self. This movie is full of little ironies like that.

It's a much deeper story than most people realize unless they put forth the effort to peel back the layers. Mike said: " is one excessive cliche after another, all intended to manipulate the audience into a deep hatred for the English in the film." I simply do not see this Anglophobia at all. The British Army was not demonized in this story. If anything, it was portrayed as a company of gentleman doing their duty for King and country against a dangerous rebellion, in the most orderly way they could. ONE CHARACTER was shown to be a sociopath, an absolute monster, but he did not symbolize all of England. I thought the movie made this very clear. Tavington is the flip side of Benjamin Martin. Does

Martin symbolize all the Patriots? Of course not! He's NOT a patriot. (The title actually refers to Gabriel). Tavington began life as a gentleman, educated, privileged, and should have reflected those advantages. Instead, he is a savage. Benjamin, who did brutal acts in his earlier life, is struggling to become a man worthy of his beloved wife and beautiful family. I disagree that the movie engenders a "deep hatred" for anybody other than Tavington, and of course a deep horror of war. In hating him, we are saying we renounce what he represents--vanity, selfishness, cruelty, barbarism. Even then, I didn't so much hate him as feel bewildered and grieved by such evil. I was glad for him to die so that his evil acts would end, not because I wanted vengeance. I don't think by that point that Benjamin did, either; I think he was finishing what Gabriel was supposed to do--overcome the evil. By destroying his antithesis, with Tavington representing all that Benjamin is trying to banish within himself, he is once and for all able to find and hold onto the goodness in his nature.

Subject: comments
Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2000
From: Jennifer

As far as I can tell this movie is in no way a tale of redemption and human condition, unless it is saying that we somehow earn our redemption through creating the United States of America. The overall message of this movie seemed to be that violence is okay as long as you do it well, do it smartly, and do it to the right people. I suppose that message is common to a lot of what's in the media, but it just seemed so much more obvious here. Mel Gibson's character viciously (and disgustingly) mutilates the body of a British soldier in front of his two VERY YOUNG boys and then is promptly comforted by his sweetheart who tells him that he has "nothing to be ashamed of."

Mel's character is in fact very interesting, but you never sense that he has gone through any significant change or development and in the end all the violence he (and everyone else) has committed is made okay by the fact that the "good guys" win, and we get to have America. I suppose you could argue that Mel is indeed punished for his sins by the loss of his two sons. But from the very beginning we see that these boys are their own people, who disagree with their father, who do not respect his position on the war, and who wish to make their own choices. Do their deaths serve only to redeem their father? I don't think so. I think these boys chose to act, knowing the risk and price.

For their father to view their loss as some kind of personal retribution actually takes away the value of their deaths and their choices and their individuality. But perhaps this is a typical dynamic between parents and children--that children are viewed only psychological extensions of the parent-self, or they are objects possesed and owned by the parent. I found all the violence very disturbing and not at all instructional. I'm very sad I gave these people $8.50.

Response: I did not get the idea that the death of two sons was payback for his sins (pun intented). -David

Subject: Disappointed
Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2000
From: Mike

Great effects, great battles and great acting; but great script? I think not. While this movie definitely features a great protagonist, particularly one Christians can relate to and empathize with, it is one excessive cliche after another, all intended to manipulate the audience into a deep hatred for the English in the film. I have no trouble being lead to dislike a villain for their despicable acts, but 'The Patriot' pushed this storytelling device to its' limits, and I left the theater feeling a bit 'used'.

While it is a fantastic summer movie, if you want a film about war in the Americas which shows that patriotic Americans can perform both deeds of valor as well as atrocities, rent 'Glory'.

Date: Sun, 9 Jul 2000
From: Janice, Modesto

I, too, found The Patriot an exceptional film.. I couldn't help thinking, as I watched it, about all those who have sacrificed so much throughout the history of the United States. If they could see the United States of today, would they recognize its values and priorities as worthy of their sacrifice? Would they, in utter disbelief, "Was it for this I died?"
Janice, Modesto

Response: Janice, you live in Modesto, California? I must know you. Have we met?

Subject: The North Star vs. the Cross.
Date: Sat, 08 Jul 2000
From: Mike Miller

The North Star is an important image repeatedly dealt with from the very beginning of the movie. Its characteristics of constancy and guidance are to be associated with the late Mrs. Martin. We learn this from the inscription upon her gravestone, her necklace, and from the conversation held between her two daughters. The oldest daughter tells the younger of how their mother, like the north star, will always be looking down and taking care of them. In fact from this association we sense the belief, or perhaps simply more of a wish, that the bonds of family are more lasting than the short spans of our lifetimes.

Benjamin (Mel Gibson) is the most devout to this faith. Nothing is more basic within humans than the need for constancy; it gives them a feeling of security. Most of history has been characterized by man's search for universals in which he can hope in and can trust will keep him steady. Unfortunately the overwhelming majority have trusted in things which are not based upon reason (unlike true Christianity)-- they make "leaps of faith" and end up resting on things that are not trustworthy. This is exactly what Benjamin has done. As we see a man strenuously go about the delicate business of making a chair he can rest in, we also see him go about the much more delicate business of keeping his family free from harm. However, his hope, or faith, of the constancy of family is soon challenged.

The battle comes to his very doorstep and takes the life of his eldest son -- his future is changed, his hope is ruined, and the chair has broken. As the movie progresses a new image seems to pop up a lot -- the cross. In the scenes at the secret meeting place (the old spanish mission) it is impossible to miss. Interestingly everyone of these scenes with the cross in the background has dialog which deals with things like reconciliation between the hodgepodge of personalities and backgrounds that constitute the militia or Benjamin's past sins and sought redemption. During one of these scenes Gabriel (Heath Ledger) is sewing the flag back together. I think this is a symbol of restoration. It is even as if the cross in the background is slowly changing Benjamin from his old revenge driven self to someone with better priorities and a healthier approach to his family life. He is finally becoming one who "stays the course", as is repeated in the movie; and one who is more driven by the "cause" (that being winning the war).

Over time the image of the cross begins to take the place of the north star. Time and pressure seem to prove the cross and the things it represents in the movie as the true constant. When the church is burned down and the flames devour so many loved ones and their earthly place of worship, notice the position of the cross. It seems to be the one part of the building which resists the fire. Perhaps the most pivotal scene that establishes this theme happens next. Benjamin returns with the militia and finds the north star necklace that he had passed on to his son's family (his daughter-in-law) in the rubbage of the fire. It is burned. Once again the family bond has been broken. But look at the wonderful shot that we see next. Benjamin looks up from the ruined necklace in his hand and sees the shape of a cross in part of the wall that has remained through the fire!

In short, I think this theme of the constancy of restoration in contrast to everything else men put their faith in exists in the movie. I would appreciate your comments. Also there seems to me to be something substitutionary in the way the reverend takes the bullet for Gabriel and then gives his gun up to him. Any thoughts? thanks.
-Mike Miller

Response: Mike, wow! Who are you? You are a most insightful person. I read very few people with the insight you demonstrate here. As you know I love symbolism on films. Most people never notice such things. But you on the other hand... Well, extraordinary. I would love to see a movie with you some day and then go out for coffee to talk. I am just so impressed with your insight. Did I say, "Wow?" -David

Date: Wed, 05 Jul 2000
From: Jonathan Smith

Yesterday, July 4, My wife and I went to see, "The Patriot". We rarely agree on movies, but this one we agree on. It is a must see movie! not once but several times. Last spring I had the opportunity to speak at my son's fraternity about spirituality in films. I briefly talked about the levels of watching films. The Patriot, was not only technically well done, the battle scenes require big screen viewing, It was a very well written script, because of how well written this script was it speaks to our variety of emotional levels. The Patriot will not only "speak" to those of us who are looking for "technical" expertise, and acting abilities it will speak to those of us who look beyond the film. The symbolism through out the film is fantastic. I can not wait for this to come out on Video so that I can use "clips" for sermon illustrations.
Jonathan Smith Trinity UMC Amherst, NY

Subject: comment
Date: Mon, 3 Jul 2000
From: Angel 7

Actually, Mel Gibson isn't an Australian (as suggested in the last posting.) He was born in the United States and moved to his mother's native country of Australia when he was twelve. This movie is wonderful!!! I had been looking forward to seeing it for months and it didn't disappoint me in the least. I thought it was wonderfully symbolic of the struggles we have in our America. We need to be aware of where we came from, the struggles we went through to be free and how we can keep from completely losing that freedom in this country because we are in danger of that happening (particularly as Christians.) I believe that this is quite important. This film can increase this awareness. Angel 7

Subject: Excellent
Date: Mon, 3 Jul 2000
From: Shadow

I saw the horrors of a gentleman's war in The Patriot. I felt compassion for the victims on both sides. Benjamin said at one point in the movie that the war would not be fought in some distant land, but in their homes. I contend that the same battles that were fought long ago, still rage in our hearts today. I thank God for those who have the courage to fight, and I wonder could I do the same?

Date: Sun, 02 Jul 2000
From: Darrel Manson

Certainly this is a film of good vs. evil. For Americans, it is easy for us to see ourselves in the rebels fighting the evil English. (That, of course, is the winners writing the history. Many of the English were more like Cornwallis who believed war was to be fought by certain gentlemanly rules -- which the rebels often ignored.) I think it's a little more subtle that the good and evil can be within us all. Ben Martin (Gibson) had been just as brutal and inhuman at Fort Wilderness as Tavington is now. And that evil is always below the surface when he fights. It is this that is his real battle, not the Red Coats.
-- Darrel Manson ><>
Artesia Christian Church ICQ 5624184 ><>Artesia, CA
Democracy used to be a good thing, but now it has gotten into the wrong hands. -Jesse Helms

Subject: 4th Of July Treat
Date: Sat, 1 Jul 2000
From: "Mike Furches"

I took my family to see this wonderful film as a kind of pre celebration for the 4th of July. I had heard some of the reviews about the movie and only hoped that it would give some type of positive portrayal to a man, his faith, his struggle with God and the fight for freedom. I had even emailed a few friends to tell them of my hopes. What I got was so much more than what I expected and needless to say, I am very pleased with the end product.

In one regard it is ironic that an Australian has been able to portray a more patriotic representation of our history than any other that I have seen. Maybe this says something about freedom that we all take for granted. Those of us born in America, do not always see or understand the sacrifice and struggle that the patriots made for our country in the 1700's. This film is not just about the struggle for political freedom though but more importantly about the struggle for freedom within ones faith.

This movie pays tribute to all men, women, and races who made the sacrifices that they made for our initial freedom. If there has ever been a more moving portrayal of the Revolutionary War I don't know what it is. The Patriot not only pays tribute to the men who fought for our nations freedom it also pays tribute to the relationship that many of them had to Jesus Christ. The influence of the Cross in so many scenes in the movie is not overlooked.

Also the dedication of a father to remind his children to pray each day, while at the same time recognizing his own sin and need in seeking God's forgiveness is absolutely refreshing. I don't know what is going on in Hollywood right now but it is obvious from films such as this that God is finding ways to get his message out to the world in ways to get them to think about their own relationship. While there were some editing bafoos earlier in the film, the old dreaded hanging microphone, the story, acting, and everything else about this film is absolutely perfect.

I agree with David there are numerous scenes that you need to pullout the tissue for, especially for fathers. There is even one scene involving the flag that you hear people in the theater shedding a few tears. Now let me ask you when was the last time that you have seeing a flag makes you so proud of your heritage that you cheer? Personally the last time a flag had this much emotional impact was when the U.S.A. hockey team won the gold medal in the Olympics. Is this a patriotic film? You bet it is, but it is so much more than that.

I heard someone say it was an American version of Braveheart. To me that is an extremely sad comment. While Braveheart was a wonderful film this is a story of America's history, it's passion for freedom, justice, and love of God. On a scale of 1 - 10, A 10, by the way my first 10 on
Mike Furches Tulsa, OK

The Patriot © 2000 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.