The Patriot: The Extended Cut (Sony)
Features: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, Chris Cooper, Tom Wilkinson and Jason Isaacs
Based, extremely loosely, on the exploits of the Revolutionary War veteran Francis Marion (aka “The Swamp Fox”), this tale of a father’s love for his sons and his country plays with history the way a child plays with Legos… building whatever comes to mind regardless of what the factual directions say must be built. As historical action movies go, this Roland Emmerich film (his follow-up to the fairly awful Godzilla) is a fairly slick affair on par with the best of Edward Zwick’s historical film output. Centering on the father/son relationship between Benjamin Martin (Gibson), a musket-to-plowshares veteran of the French and Indian Wars, and his headstrong coming-of-age son, Gabriel (Ledger), The Patriot takes very little time in establishing the characters in the period of the American Revolution before plunging Martin’s large family into despair as the violence of war comes to their town in South Carolina. While his father knows of the brutality and misery of war, Gabriel feels it’s his duty to join the Continental Army and fight for freedom against the British… of course, things go awry as the prodigal son returns home bringing trouble with him.
Gibson is clearly in top form here, and for him it’s like a sequel to Braveheart in many ways– his Benjamin Martin character being an extension of William Wallace: same goals, same values, same ability to be cruelly sadistic when the moment calls for it and yet, he’s a family man at heart willing to do anything to protect his progeny from the autocratic rule of the British Monarchy. The Patriot attempts to tell a personal story amidst the backdrop of the most crucial episodes of Colonial American history, and it largely succeeds if one overlooks the way it plays with historical fact (the burning to death of the townsfolk in a locked-down church by the eeeeeevil! British is both a highlight and a lowlight of this film… since the event seems to be ripped from a true-life WWII atrocity committed by Nazi’s, not Redcoats). It certainly is a heckuva lot better than that 80’s Pacino film (Revolution). Simply put, it’s a clumsy movie during its exposition sequences, a thrilling (and sometimes nauseous) one during the action sequences, but with its gloss on historical facts and utter fumbling on questions of race during the 18th Century (in what would become America’s Deep South), the film can be rather frustrating for fans of history and the roles of America’s real patriots during the Colonial conflicts.
The beauty of Caleb Deschanel’s award winning cinematography on Blu-ray, along with the uncompressed soundtrack, make The Patriot a likely candidate for a showcase disc whenever someone stops by to admire your hi-def home theater. The incredibly detailed 1080p AVC high profile picture is stunning. From the opening sequence it’s apparent the terrific color saturation (the gore seems to leap out at times), deep black levels and just an all-around pristine image make this widescreen 2.35 ratio action film a must-buy for the format… that’s a must buy with a caveat.. wait for it, because first I must address the audio which is downright superb. The uncompressed 4.6 mbps PCM surround mix allocates enough room on 5.1 channels for the dialog to sound warm and distinct, while the John Williams score comes across as rich and assertive without overwhelming the rear channel sound effects and ambient tones, especially during the brutal battle sequences. Additionally, there’s dubbed tracks in DD 5.1 (German, French and English, too).
And now, the buyer beware portion of our review where I ask the video gods how Sony screwed the pooch on this one. The “extended scenes” run about 10 minutes total, exactly like the standard-def Extended Version, and are integrated throughout the film; some scenes are extended by a minute or so fleshing out action and exposition. For fans of this film, note that none of the special features found on the standard-def Extended Version are here, making the Blu-ray release closer to the bare bones (but amazing quality) Superbit edition. There’s two EPK featurettes included: True Patriots and The Art of War, but missing are the director’s commentary track, conceptual art featurette, production galleries, etc. Buy this disc for an ungrade in scanlines from the Superbit while that version’s terrific DTS soundtrack is now replaced by a more robust and intense PCM mix. Last but not least is the polyglot of languages included: English, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Slovene, Swedish, Turkish, Bulgarian, Romanian, Hungarian, and Croatian.