By Hemanth Kissoon
“They don’t want a king here, as far as I reckon,” Tom Dobb (Al Pacino)
The director’s cut of the magnificent REVOLUTION is getting released on Blu-ray, and appears to have suffered the same fate of the masterpiece, HEAVEN’S GATE: misunderstood, unfairly maligned and a financial disaster. Devoid of mawkishness and jingoistic bluster, REVOLUTION is instead a meditative epic about the agonising throwing off of imperialist yoke, from the perspective of an illiterate and hard-working fur tradesman, Tom Dobb. We are not in simplistic THE PATRIOT territory: one side bad, one side good. The American War of Independence is shown to be cruel and brutal, as in any conflict. So, few come off well. This is not JOHN ADAMS, where we see the revolt as an intellectually remarkable feat through the eyes of the architects. Rather this is on the ground level, where those who are impoverished subjects just want to eek out an existence, to make sure their families are healthy. Who rules them is of no import, as long as they permitted to go on unimpeded with their trade.
Far ahead of its time, REVOLUTION is a subtler analysis of class and rebellion than Ken Loach’s (albeit high quality) THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY. With Pacino’s narration and the stunning cinematic sweep, we are in the poetic field ploughed almost exclusively by Terrence Malick in THE THIN RED LINE and THE NEW WORLD. Perhaps the theatrical cut wasn’t as satisfying? Well, this version is a must-watch.
Sucked into the war to protect his young son, Ned, Tom does all he can to shield him. Along with the exploration of combat and honour, there is the microcosm of father and son friction and love. What happens when you don’t care what the fight is about (at least at the beginning), and all that matters is safeguarding your child? For fans of the novel, THE ROAD has resonances. And also on a more pulp level, THE ROAD TO PERDITION.
An all-star cast (Donald Sutherland, Natassja Kinski, Joan Plowright, Steven Berkoff, Richard O’Brien, Sid Owen, Dexter Fletcher, Graham Greene and Annie Lennox) deliver glamour and charisma. Apart from Michael Corleone, REVOLUTION is arguably Pacino’s finest hour. His performance is devoid of his trademark shouty hectoring, it is a lesson in sustained anguish, world-weary confusion and at times pure determination.