Discussing the old school DVD’s that still sound and look great in the era of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD technology.
No matter what happens to Mel Gibson after his infamous arrest and anti-Semitic tirade, one can’t deny that he’s made and starred in some powerful films throughout his career. Braveheart, We Were Soldiers, Signs, Passion of the Christ… the list goes on. However, one of my favorite Gibson movies has always been The Patriot.
Basically an update of Braveheart< ...I>, set during the Revolutionary War, The Patriot finds Gibson as Benjamin Martin, a father and farmer who wishes to live in peace with his family after fighting in the vicious French and Indian War.
When the redcoats arrive at his house, killing one of his sons, and taking another son as prisoner, Benjamin Martin is forced into battle once more to save his hostage son, Gabriel (Heath Ledger), and avenge the son that was slain.
Despite being made with the cooperation of the Smithsonian Institute, The Patriot drew some criticism for wandering from the facts when it comes to the Revolutionary War. The British are seen as violent savages lead by a snarling Col. Tavington (Jason Issacs hitting every note perfectly as one of the best modern film villains), but in reality, both sides fought almost as honorably as gentlemen, as if they were simply engaging in a friendly game of Risk. My, how war has changed since then. There is also the subplot involving a freed slave who after joining the militia to fight for his freedom, gains the respect of the white men around him. It’s nice to think that something like this actually happened back then – and who knows, it may have – but it feels forced and out of place in the film.
The Patriot is not without its historical and narrative flaws, but it’s an excellent historical summer blockbuster epic that arouses the basic range of emotions. Kudos to director Ronald Emmerich, who bounced back from the disaster that was Godzilla, in a big way.
When it was released on DVD, The Patriot was heralded as one of the finest treatments to date. It contained an excellent video transfer, a stunning soundtrack, and a slew of informative extras – all on one disc. Since then, it has been re-released as a Superbit title, and in an Extended Cut edition. However, the original release (the one I still proudly own – remember I said I never double-dipped on any of the movies in my collection?) is still a sight and sound to behold.
Filmed in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, The Patriot receives a fine video transfer. There is some very light grain during darker scenes of the film, but this is forgivable. The darker scenes are still very crisp and the deep blues and steely palate that Emmerich uses in these dark scenes enrich the picture. Scenes in daylight are also crisp, and also have a nostalgic colonial American feel to them, as they should. The reds of the British troops’ uniforms are also deep and rich and even the smallest of details on the battlefield (especially during wideshots) are displayed in crystal clear clarity. Usually, when a disc is loaded with extras, the video is the one thing to suffer. I am sure the Superbit edition of The Patriot looks great (I’ve never seen it), but this edition of the film still does its job admirably.
Now, what this disc really gets right (and I have a hard time believing that the Superbit edition of this film improves on it) is the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.
This is still one of the best and most beautiful soundtracks I’ve ever heard – even in the era of THX, DTS, and EX. Skip right to “Gabriel’s Rescue” and you’ll know what I mean.
Gunshots from the blackpowder rifles are so deep, and crackling with power that they feel like they are being shot off right next to your ear. And in some cases, they are. In this particular scene, the surround speakers are given some of the best sound separation I’ve ever heard them receive. The scene isn’t overloaded with a lot of noise, so it’s very easy (and fun) to hear the surround speakers work their magic. They handle gunshots and the panicked voices of the British soldiers perfectly. I’m getting goosebumps right now, just having watched the scene in my basement. It really is one of the top 5 demo scenes around – right up there with the Episode 1 pod race and the finale to King Kong. Pure magic.
The sound spectacular doesn’t end there either. We’re still treated to several skirmishes, explosions and battles as the movie progresses. During the battle scenes the cannons erupt with bass – and will literally rattle your house. The hooves of horses are also laced with excellent low end frequency. You’ll swear you were there on the battlefield while watching this film. Even when there isn’t a lot going on, the speakers detail even the smallest of sounds – the shifting of the rifles as the soldiers lift them up in unison to fire at the enemy, the far off calls from commanding officers, and the sounds from battles in the distance.
I could literally go on and explain every sound from every scene in the film, but it is something you really have to experience for yourself. If you don’t own The Patriot, go out and buy it today. Get the Superbit if you don’t care for extra features and reward yourself with the improved sound and picture – even though I don’t know how much of a difference it will make. If you want the Extended Version, I’m sure that’s a great choice too.
You really can’t go wrong when it comes to The Patriot.