A melodramatic, revisionist depiction of the American Revolution, Roland Emmerich's The Patriot manages to entertain thanks to the director's talent for cinematic spectacle and Mel Gibson's performance. The historical war epic charges the 4K Ultra HD field with a lovely HDR10 presentation, a highly-satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack, and a new assortment of supplements, making the package Recommended for fans.
Taking a break from his usual sci-fi disaster and dystopia extravaganzas, German-born filmmaker Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Stargate, 2012) brought his flair for grand cinematic spectacle to the American Revolutionary War in The Patriot. However, the 164-minute war epic is far from historical, remotely close to accurate or even loosely based on specific events or battles. (Most notorious is a scene involving Jason Isaacs as charismatic sociopath British Colonel Tavington, Adam Baldwin as reluctant American Captain Wilkins, and a church crowded by local villagers.) Nevertheless, Emmerich demonstrates a desire to at least feel as though these events could have happened. But more importantly, they serve as poignant plot turns that further drive — or more accurately, enrage and stoke the flame of passion in — our heroes to victory and independence from the callous, villainous British monarchy. Frankly, the movie is more a fantasy epic, history revisionism at its worst without any of the allure to fully captivate the audience.
But ignoring Robert Rodat's brazenly melodramatic script that essentially force-feeds viewers to hiss and boo at the British, the film is largely saved by Mel Gibson's compelling performance as the deeply conflicted but gallant veteran Benjamin Martin. As the well-known widowed hero of the French and Indian War who struggles with protecting his family, seeking vengeance and fighting against tyranny, Gibson terrifically humanizes Martin's plight to a degree that nearly becomes inspiring, making the British atrocities superfluous and excessive. Still, Emmerich does well behind the camera, balancing the histrionics with the plot's more harrowing moments, particularly the scenes of battle and Martin's talents for military tactics. Working with cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, the gorily-violent combat sequences are displayed with a gut-wrenching intensity where the focus is not always on the production's A-list. Rather, it feels as an honest depiction of the ugliness and brutality involved, making an otherwise average melodrama mildly memorable.
For a more in-depth take on the movie, you can read our review of the Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings The Patriot to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with an UltraViolet Digital Copy. Said code can be redeemed via SonyPictures.com, MoviesAnywhere and VUDU, giving users access to the Theatrical Cut in 1080p HD with Dolby Digital Stereo. Inside the black, eco-vortex case with glossy slipcover, the triple-layered UHD100 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 copy. The UHD contains only the Theatrical Cut of the film whereas the BD is identical to the previous release with the 175-minute Extended Version. At startup, the disc goes straight to an interactive main menu that changes screens when switching between the usual options while music plays in the background.
The Patriot leads the charge onto the fields of Ultra HD with a fantastic and overall lovely HEVC H.265 encode, putting its Blu-ray counterpart on the defensive but ultimately making it retreat in defeat. The differences and improvements are admittedly subtle, but they are enough for demonstrating this new transfer as winning the battle.
Overall definition and resolution are noticeably sharper with better clarity in the costumes, individual hairs are more distinct and viewers can clearly make out the small objects in the background decorating the colonial homes. The fine lines in the surrounding foliage, each separate leaf and the rough bark of the trees are highly detailed during the daylight exteriors, and even during the many nighttime sequences, everything remains clear and visible within the darkest shadows and corners of the frame. Black levels, in general, are velvety rich and inky with superb gradational differences, as seen in the many belts, straps and iron-made equipment. There are a few softer, blurry moments and poorly-resolved scenes, likely related to either the original photography or the condition of the source, but all in all, with a thin layer of natural grain throughout, the 2160p transfer is in excellent shape, looking far more cinematic than its 1080p predecessor.
And still, the 4K presentation, reportedly made from a brand-new 4K remaster of the original camera negatives, marches forward with a stronger contrast and radiant whites, allowing for some extraordinary visibility in the far distance and making the many extreme wide shots of the battles really pop. Specular highlights, in particular, are a much-welcomed improvement, providing the brightest and most intensely hot sections with a tighter, more narrow brilliance that reveals some of the finer details while metallic objects come with a better glistening, lifelike shine. Even in the cloudiest, more overcast moments, the clouds come with a sharply resplendent and lustrous twinkle, and any scene with fire or candlelight, each flame shows a blazing white center with a fiery orange, reddish yellow edge that's true to life. Speaking of which, the 2.40:1 image is awash is lavish, richly-saturated primaries, especially the candy-rose colored fabric of the British military and the lively greens of nature. Secondary hues are not quite as impressive, but there are a bit more variety and range, which can be appreciated in a few scenes with sunsets and sunrises, as well as in the rosier, more lifelike flesh tones of the entire cast.
Perhaps the biggest and arguably best surprise is a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that not only exceeds expectations but also dominates its uncompressed PCM 5.1 predecessor enjoyed on the Blu-ray.
Right from the start, John Williams' score fills the entire screen while lightly bleeding into the front heights and sides, creating a splendidly broad half-dome wall of sound from the onset. The rest of the gloriously expansive soundstage is continuously layered with various background activity and effects that discretely and convincingly move between the three front channels, generating a highly-engaging soundscape that sucks viewers right in. The mid-range is dynamic and extensive, exhibiting sharp, detailed clarity and separation within the orchestration, allowing for every note and instrument to be distinct from the rest. Every gunshot and cannon fire feels precise and exact, even during the loudest, ear-piecing segments. At the same time, the low-end delivers a powerful, hearty punch to those same moments while explosions forcefully reverberate across the room. All the while, dialogue remains clean and well-prioritized.
Of course, the best part is the award-nominated sound design, which fans will absolutely love and appreciate. The many sequences of battle erupt with bullets zooming across the screen and surrounds while also filling the room with the agonizing yells of the wounded, enveloping listeners with the terrifying noise of war. One of the better aspects is the sound of cannon balls flawlessly flying from one corner of the room and across the overheads. Individual pieces of debris from the cannon fire can also be heard going in every direction and distinctly raining down, creating an awesomely satisfying aural hemisphere that places the listener in the mist of battle. Granted, much of the attention is placed in the fronts and surrounds, but there are plenty of terrific scenes where the heights are used to excellent effect. Quieter sequences maintain this immersive dome-like soundfield with various atmospherics of the local animal life, crickets singing in the distance or the wind blowing through the trees.
The same supplements from the previous home video release — True Patriots (10 min) and The Art of War (9 min) — are ported over, but surprisingly, this UHD edition includes new bonus material exclusive to this package, giving fans another reason to upgrade their Blu-ray.
Audio Commentary: Director Roland Emmerich is joined by producer Dean Devlin to discuss various aspects of the production along with the plot, the performances & characters, and history details.
Visual Effects (1080i/60, 9 min): Closer look at the CG effects and designing some of the visuals.
Conceptual Art to Film Comparison (1080i/60, 5 min): Exactly as the title suggests, viewers can compare production design artwork with the finished corresponding scene.
Deleted Scenes (1080i/60, 13 min): A set of seven excised scenes with optional filmmakers' commentary.
Photo Gallery (2160p).
While not a fan of Roland Emmerich's attempt at the historical epic feature, I must admit The Patriot has some entertainment value, mostly due to Mel Gibson's performance and Emmerich bringing his brand of big-screen spectacle to the battlefield. The plot, on the other hand, is the mediocre melodrama equivalent of a soap opera that goes out of its way to make audience booing and hissing at the central villain. The film charges the field of Ultra HD Blu-ray with a beautiful 4K HDR10 video presentation and a demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack that'll surely leaves fans thoroughly impressed. The overall package includes a set of new bonus material not previously available, making this a Recommended addition to the UHD library.