I love the Revolutionary War. It has all the tragedy, glamour, and pomp, leaving none for the other wars. In fifth grade, my best friend and I made armies out of twigs and played Revolutionary War at recess. I have seen The Patriot seven times. Guess who made a movie about the Revolutionary War? Al Pacino! I love him too.
Sadly, Revolution has problems. Al Pacino himself came down with pneumonia during filming, and took a four year vacation when it was over. For my part, I could neither see nor hear most of the movie. I know I watched an old tape, but the picture was clear—just very dark, very Baroque. Whose bright idea was it to turn out all the lights?
The sound was no better. The dialogue seemed to have been dubbed in later, but was still all muffled. Also, a number of characters speak with a peculiar accent that isn’t always easy to understand—not really British, not quite Bronx—more of a halting thing like Corky from Life Goes On. They’re all immigrants with minimal education, but why would they sound like that?
Despite experiencing the movie in Helen Keller mode, it wasn’t a total loss. I always think of Al Pacino as a bit of a City Mouse, so it was fun to watch him running around the woods, doing mountain man stuff. He also has a fabulous 80’s haircut in this movie. You know the one I mean—Mel Gibson had it in Bird on a Wire, Sylvester Stallone had it in Rambo, and Michael Landon had it, well, all his life. It makes a man look both rugged and sensitive—very nice.
Anyway, Al and his foxy haircut play Tom Dobb, a trapper who feels that the Revolution is not his fight. Unfortunately, the liberty women are bent on making it his fight, and Annie Lennox (yes, The Eurhythmics’ Annie Lennox) screams at the top of her lungs until Tom has to give his boat to the cause. Put a sock in it, Annie.
Poor Tom is left with no means to make a living, and as he’s collecting his meager payment for this sacrifice, his son, Ned, enlists in the army so he can score them another five pounds. Of course, Tom just about dies when he finds out. He tries to void the contract, but winds up enlisted as well.
The film then follows father and son through three years of war. The highlight is undoubtedly when Tom rescues Ned after he is captured. The bottoms of Ned’s feet have been whipped (or something), so Tom carries him through the woods, bathes his feet in the river, and finally comforts him as an Indian cauterizes the wounds. I must say that if I ever have to endure a painful, primitive medical procedure, I hope to do so in Al Pacino’s arms. He covers his son’s face in kisses, rocks him like a baby, and distracts him with sweet stories about his dead mother. I want to marry this man.
So does Daisy, (Nastassja Kinski), but she is injured shortly after proclaiming her love to him. Tom attempts to find her, but when handed the patient register at an army hospital, must admit, “I don’t read.” I could burst into tears just thinking about it. Personally, I thought Daisy had been decapitated, because for the umpteenth time in this movie, I had no idea what I was looking at.
Daisy is actually a very cool girl, disgusted by the hypocrisy of the upper class, and willing to get out there and fight like a man. She even stabs a Brit in the gut at a party, prompting him to announce to her mother (Joan Plowright) that all of her daughters are whores. Heh heh.
The Red Coats are so awful that you can’t help loving them. They operate on the theory that you can’t have a war without a drummer boy, and are truly the glam rockers of the military. They sink to new lows when they orchestrate a “fox hunt” using two colonists tied to an effigy of George Washington. After poor Tom Dobb runs for his life all over the countryside, they probably go inside and drink tea with their pinkies raised.
Though Revolution has all the makings of a great movie, it fails to put them together in a satisfying way. We never get as close to the characters as we should, and though Donald Sutherland plays a callous British general, his role is reduced to that of an extra. The star power in this film is absolutely unutilized. Revolution succeeds in showing that the Revolutionary War was won by people who were just trying to survive, but so does The Patriot, and that movie comes with both color and sound—a bonus in any movie.