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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Patriot (Superbit) (2000)

"With the war ending and our militia disbanding I take measure of what we have lost and what we have won. My hope and prayer is that the sacrificies born by so many will spawn and fulfill the promise of our new nation. "
- Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: June 04, 2002

Stars: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger
Other Stars: Jason Isaacs, Joely Richardson, Chris Cooper, Tcheky Karyo, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Roland Emmerich

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: R for strong war violence
Run Time: 02h:45m:36s
Release Date: May 28, 2002
UPC: 043396079106
Genre: war

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B-AA+ B+

DVD Review

After fighting in the French and Indian war, Benjamin Martin (Gibson) has settled down and plans to live his life far away from the battlefields on which he so often fought. After the death of his wife, he is left to raise his children alone, something he intends to do removed from the violence that is again raging, this time the early rumblings of revolutionary war. His oldest son, Gabriel (Ledger), is determined to join the Colonials and fight the British, much to his father's dismay. Gabriel does join and ultimately finds himself back home and wounded badly. As Gabriel is mending, the Martin household becomes host to a battle between the conflicting sides, and Benjamin comes to offer his home to wounded Americans and British alike.

Soon, however, the Dragoons roll in led by Col. William Tavington (Isaacs), a sadistic officer in the ranks of the British who orders the Martin home burnt to the ground for their harboring of wounded American soldiers. As if this were not enough, Tavington also orders Gabriel to be hung on display as a traitor; in protest, his brother Thomas (Gregory Smith) rushes forward only to be shot by Tavington, in cold blood, as his family watches. Outraged, Benjamin sets aside his resolution not to be involved in this war and begins to fight for freedom, as well as revenge against Tavington. Rounding up a militia, Gabriel and Benjamin become a sort of Robin Hood and his merry men as they steal shipments from the British while keeping South Carolina free from British reign.

After the enormous success of Independence Day, as well as the enormous letdown of Godzilla, German-born director Roland Emmerich seemed an unlikely choice to helm a big budget film centered around American patriotism during the revolutionary war. When the film was released in the summer of 2000, it was not the direction of Emmerich that came under fire from critics and audiences alike, it was in fact the script by Saving Private Ryan screenwriter, Robert Rodat, that drew heavy criticism. Personally, I found Rodat's screenplay to have an overbearing sense of patriotism; the endless speeches focusing on our battle for freedom feel forced and overwrought.

Rodat has crafted a clichéd script, most notably a group of supporting characters that look as though they were taken from the standard plot assembly line. We have a reverend fighting the war, a slave who dreams of freedom, and a bigoted farmer who eventually learns to respect the former slave for his bravery. Rodat does offer each character a voice, which is admirable, but it seems as though they all say the same thing. From a speech in the middle of a church service by Gabriel's love interest, Ann, to the never ending ramblings of Benjamin's militia members, the script never offers them a unique voice.

The screenplay also never really offers a strong emotional center, which should be central to the film as it involves the love of family as well as blossoming romances for both Gabriel and Benjamin. Take for instance the scene between Gabriel and Benjamin in which the son confronts the father about his heroics in earlier battles that he has chosen not to discuss with his children. Not only does this moment offer no real bearing on the rest of the picture but we are treated to a lengthy monologue by Benjamin that seems to exist only to pad the running time of the film. During this scene, I kept wondering why Gabriel didn't just ask one of the men in the militia as several talk with Benjamin about his past and obviously know about it; instead, we are offered an emotionally vacant scene between a father and his son.

The film is, at times, exciting and is quite well made. Emmerich creates a broad canvas for the story and the action is almost always of the highest quality, including the climactic battle that, while logistically implausible, is thrilling. The cinematography by Caleb Deschanel is nothing short of brilliant; he gives the film a sort of amber sheen throughout the daytime sequences that creates perhaps the most picturesque cinematography I have ever seen on film. Gibson does a terrific job in the lead role in the way he brings a certain depth to his character that the script doesn't provide. He shows emotion terrifically well in several scenes, including one towards the end of the film with Chris Cooper. Ledger does a fine job as Gabriel and has a nice rapport with Gibson, and with a script that is lacking in emotion, his performance are all the more impressive. Jason Isaacs creates a terrific villain that oozes evil and, in one scene with Gibson, offers a line that is perfectly delivered.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The original release of The Patriot featured a reference quality transfer, so it was with certain reservations that I placed the Superbit disc into my player. The difference between the original and the Superbit release are small and, to be honest, there are very few instances where I could distinguish the difference. The new release seems to offer a bit sharper detail and a more film-like look; overall, the transfer is top quality and the film looks absolutely gorgeous from start to finish. From the harsh blues of the nighttime scenes to the amber and gold-tinted sequences of broad open fields, the transfer looks nothing short of perfect. There are a few moments of slight edge enhancement that I noticed, but these were so minor they represent no real problems.

In a head to head face-off, the Superbit proved to be the winner, but not by much. I suppose that as more recent titles such as this are released in Superbit versions it will become more and more difficult to distinguish the differences, as Columbia has raised their standards and so many films look terrific in regular release.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: As is the case with the video transfer, the original release of The Patriot featured a reference quality Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but in this case the DTS track included as part of the Superbit release is a noticeable improvement. The DTS mix offers a truly enveloping mix, as John Williams' overly emotional score as well as the sounds of cannons and rifles fill the room for a terrific sonic experience. While it would normally be enough for the film to feature a booming mix, it is also in the ambient effects that the DTS track shows its worth. From the sounds of horses galloping from one side of the room to the other or the ocean waves hitting the shores in chapter 21, this is a perfectly designed mix. Dialogue is done nicely and is clear throughout, while the .1 LFE track shakes the room during the numerous battle scenes.

While the differences between the mixes are slight, the DTS does offer a bit broader range, creating a mix that is stunning in the way it truly engulfs the room with sound.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portugeuse, Korean, and Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
7 Deleted Scenes
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo GalleryPhoto gallery
  2. Visual Effects Comparisons
Extras Review: Essentially, disc two on this new Superbit release features each of the extra features found on the original release of the film. Gone, though, is the commentary track by Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin, replaced by commentary for the deleted scenes included here.

First is a Visual Effects featurette that shows how five scenes in the film came to be created, with commentary by visual effects supervisor Stuart Robertson. The scenes—one involving a cannonball tearing through a group of soldiers while another shows how the filmmakers manipulated an epic battle with computer effects—are shown in three parts, each box available for viewing in a larger section on the screen. This is an interesting way to view the creative process from start to finish, getting to see the enormous amount of work done by the visual effects artists to get them right. Along the same line of discussion is the Conceptual Art to Film Comparisons, which is a look at storyboard sketches and their use in the final cut of the film. Essentially, this is just a way to see how close the filmmakers came to seeing their dreams.

The Art of War is a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the battle sequences. Running just over ten minutes in length, the featurette offers interviews with the cast and crew as they discuss the recreation of the battles fought in real life, as well as the amount of work that went into the planning of the scenes. Another featurette entitled True Patriots looks at the historical accuracy of the film, largely focused on the costumes. There is a brief discussion as to what composites of real life individuals made up the fictional characters in the film, although no mention is made of the controversy that surrounded the real life Francis Marion (whom Benjamin is largely based upon), who was not known for being the best person in his time.

A selection of seven deleted scenes are offered with or without commentary by Emmerich and Devlin. While the scenes do help to flesh out a few of the plot holes in the finished film, each was rightfully excised from the picture. Many feature emotions lacking from the finished cut, but as they would have added to the already lengthy running time, it doesn't appear they would add much to the overall value of the picture.

The theatrical and teaser trailers are offered in anamorphic widescreen with amazing Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The theatrical trailer is one of the better spots I have seen; it is loud, entertaining, and brilliantly edited. A large photo gallery, as well as cast and crew bios for the lead actors and filmmakers, finish up the set.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

All in all, the film might play better now in the months following the September 11th attacks as the renewed sense of patriotism that has quickly swept through our nation rivals the type displayed in The Patriot. But the problems with the script are still present and that is enough to give only a mild recommendation. The Superbit release is the best way to experience the film, but the omission of the commentary from the original disc makes the slightly improved video and audio portions negligible.The cost difference is also a factor, as the Superbit release costs nearly double that of the original in most stores.


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