Hollywood's Revisionist History Page 6 - A Closer Look at The Patriot
Just prior to Tavington's first appearance in the film, a British lieutenant arrives at the Martin farm. He thanks Benjamin Martin for the care given to British wounded. The same lieutenant is later appalled by Tavington's orders to kill the wounded Continental/Patriot soldiers and burn the Martin home. He complies out of fear and the chain of command after he watches Tavington shoot Benjamin Martin's second son, Thomas.
Tavington's superior, General Cornwallis, is not portrayed as a brutal man either. The real Lieutenant General Charles, Earl Cornwallis was well liked by his men, because he often went to the heat of battle, endangering his own life, to encourage his men. This conflicts with the somewhat pompous and older Cornwallis, who watches the battles from afar, portrayed in the movie. Even so, Cornwallis the character is a man of dignity who tries to rein in Tavington and his tactics as early as after the Battle of Camden in a deleted scene found on the DVD.
Later in the theatrical cut, General Cornwallis upbraids Colonel Tavington for his ruthless treatment of the colonists, citing that they need to show civilized treatment to the enemy because after the war, they will all have to get along. While Benjamin Martin frustrates Cornwallis' efforts to subjugate the inhabitants and harasses his supply lines, he changes his mind towards Tavington's tactics only after Benjamin Martin personally plays him for the fool while rescuing some of his militia from hanging.
Unlike Braveheart's William Wallace, Benjamin Martin is not portrayed as 'pure as the driven snow'. Yes, Martin/Marion's owning slaves is omitted, but Martin carries around the guilt of his actions during the French and Indian War, when in a fit of anger and revenge, Martin and his men wiped out all the French and Indian men in Fort Wilderness toward the end of that war.
Martin's darker side begins to reemerge, when he and his men, all veterans from the French and Indian War, kill several British soldiers during a raid even as the British attempt to surrender. His son, Gabriel, takes him to task for that behavior. Another quick criticism is that Benjamin Martin is not a Patriot, but is only in the war for selfish motives, which is true. In this way, the movie parallels the last big Hollywood attempt at the American Revolution, 1986's Revolution. In that film, Al Pacino's Tom Dobb is only interested in he and his son's well-being.
Revolution failed because Tom Dobb seemed to be related to the Corleone family of The Godfather. Though the same shortcoming seems to apply to The Patriot, upon closer inspection, it does not. As the filmmakers discussed even before the movie was released, Benjamin Martin is not The Patriot, but rather it Gabriel Martin who is The Patriot. Gabriel is the naïve and noble ideal of what a Patriot should be. He even spends the winter at Valley Forge with George Washington to hammer home the point that he is The Patriot from the movie's title.
Hollywood's Revisionist History: Page 7
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