‘The Patriot’ is an epic adventure film directed by Roland Emmerich, and it stars Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger in pivotal roles. The film tells the story of Benjamin Martin, a veteran of the French and Indian War, who now lives an idyllic life as a plantation owner. He is a widower with seven children, and times are tough for his family. The American Revolutionary War rages on as the British colonizers aim to consolidate their hold over American soil.
Gabriel, Benjamin’s eldest son, enlists himself in the Continental Army to fight for the cause of independence, against his father’s wishes. Gabriel’s experience in the army inadvertently drags Benjamin Martin into the war, and he has to face the British troops to protect his family and soil. ‘The Patriot’ is a tale of heroic courage and revenge that forces a pacifist into a war. SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Patriot Plot Synopsis
Benjamin Martin, a veteran of the French and Indian War, turns away from warring ways and settles for a peaceful life as a plantation owner in South Carolina. He doesn’t want to wage war with Great Britain, but his eldest son joins the Continental Army against his wishes. The British inflict heavy damage on American troops and captures Charleston. Gabriel returns to his home in a wounded state and is tended to by his family. Unfortunately, the British troops capture Gabriel to hang him on the charges of being a spy.
Thomas, Benjamin’s second son, tries to free Gabriel and is mortally wounded in the ensuing fallout. The British troops, led by Colonel Tavington (Jason Isaacs), massacres the place and burns the Martins’ house. The death of his son forces Benjamin to exact his revenge on the British troops. He ambushes some of the troops and kills them. Gabriel re-joins the Continental Army, followed by his father. Benjamin is accorded the title of Colonel, and he is tasked with keeping Lord Cornwallis’ regiment at bay.
The French also support the American cause as they promise logistics and military support. Benjamin manages to break British supply lines and is able to trick Lord Cornwallis into releasing prisoners of war. Enraged, Lord Cornwallis tasks Colonel Tavington to end the conflict by any means. Tavington inflicts some horrific atrocities on the town, where he burns down a Church full of townspeople.
Gabriel’s lover is killed in the massacre. In the ensuing battle, Gabriel confronts Tavington but is fatally wounded, and Tavington manages to flee. The loss of his young sons, home, and the insult to his motherland forces Benjamin Martin to rally his troops in the decisive battle near Cowpens. Benjamin emerges victorious as Tavington is killed and Lord Cornwallis retreats.
The Patriot Ending: A Reluctant Hero
Benjamin Martin leads a heroic effort in defeating the British troops at Cowpens. After the Continental Army’s victory, Lord Cornwallis retreats and is forced to surrender at Virginia, as he is surrounded by American militia and the French Naval force. When Benjamin returns to his plantation in South Carolina, he sees that soldiers are rebuilding his home, which was destroyed in the war. Benjamin’s people are hopeful of a better world as their hero is back after an epic battle.
This scene is symbolic of the American society’s togetherness that rebuilds its way even after being completely obliterated. Benjamin’s heroic presence motivates the people around him as he ushers a world devoid of colonizers. Benjamin, after his experience in previous battles, denounces the ways of war. Gabriel’s involvement in the cause of independence pulled him back into the battlefield. Thomas’ death, especially the manner in which he is killed, jolts Benjamin’s conscience.
He is reluctant to join the war, but the ravages he witnesses around him compels Benjamin to pick up his old mantle. During the initial skirmishes, he is able to best Lord Cornwallis’ men through clever tactics but finds himself at horn’s bay when Tavington advances in all his brutality. Gabriel’s death at the hands of Tavington breaks Benjamin’s morale. His commitment wavers momentarily but is renewed again when he finds an American Flag repaired by Gabriel.
This melodramatic moment of the film showcases Benjamin’s love for his motherland and the extent to which he can go to protect his loved ones. Moreover, it is vengeance that pushes Benjamin after Colonel Tavington. Benjamin’s reluctance to get embroiled in the war is nullified as his rage gets the better of him. This aspect of Benjamin’s character is evident when he hands over muskets to his young children when they are about to ambush the party escorting Gabriel. Nevertheless, despite having lost his loved ones, he emerges victorious through his sheer will. The house-building scenes surmise that Benjamin is revered for his dedication despite being a reluctant hero.
Why Does Benjamin Turn Into a Pacifist?
Benjamin’s experience in the French and Indian War adversely affects his psyche. He hesitates to divulge the details of the happenings at Fort Wilderness. Gabriel is curious about his father’s involvement and coaxes out the truth from him. As it turns out, Benjamin was with the British army when they attacked French troops in Fort Wilderness. The French were mutilated, and some of their body parts were sent to the Cherokees to scare them off and force their retreat. Benjamin tells Gabriel that the guilt is still heavy on his conscience, and hence, he turns towards non-violence.
As fate would have it, Benjamin is pulled right back into violent situations. Some might read this as karmic justice, an absolution of Benjamin’s guilt through an irrevocable loss. On the other hand, this particular instance holds a mirror to the grim realities of war that has shaped American history. Nevertheless, Benjamin’s approach can also be attributed to his fatherhood and the loss of his wife. He has to raise his children and doesn’t want the shadow of war looming in their formative years. Benjamin’s revolutionary ardor is still intact as he valiantly defends his people from the colonizers’ atrocities.
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