In The Patriot
Heath Ledger acquits himself well as Mel Gibson's onscreen son. Critical comparisons between the young Aussie and Gibson's own film beginnings were inevitable and Ledger lives up to them. His Gabriel Martin moves from teenager to idealistic young man who is THE PATRIOT of the film's title. His early awkward flirtatious scenes with Lisa Brenner'sAnne Howard are believably stilted as the start of a courtship often can be.
The film then moves to several years later and Gabriel is now a young man tempered by war. Ledger shows much of the same combination of charm and grit that Mel Gibson has long been known for. The chemistry between the onscreen father and son is natural and great to watch. Gabriel begins the film as brash enough to stand up to his father, but later he grows to understand his father's motivations as his own experiences grow.
Gabriel is THE Patriot for whom the movie is named and Heath Ledger easily succeeds in convincing the audience of this. Ledger infuses Gabriel with the belief in the "cause", a depth of maturity and confidence that stands out even through the aura of Mel Gibson's own magnetic screen presence. With this role, Heath Ledger positioned himself to break out in Hollywood much like Gibson himself had been in the early 1980's. Unlike Gibson, Ledger chose to take a variety of roles which included critical acclaim for turns in Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight.
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