Adams. Hancock. Revere. Cobretti.
Bitten by the scripted series bug, History Channel has turned into reasonable player in the cable game. As a fan of their flagship show Vikings. I’ve come to perk my ears up at the announcement of new projects. When I heard their next big scripted outing was going to center around the Revolutionary Way, though, I balked.
I’m proud to be an American and all but War for Independence stuff never quite grabbed me. AMC’s recent historical spy drama Turn disrupted that for a bit, but I’ve lost track of it this season not terribly interested in revisiting the era. I think the driving force has been my general affinity for our bros across the pond. Hard to hate the Brits, who essentially bequeathed us 90% of our civilization.
Perhaps the suits at History felt there were more tough-sells like me out there, so they approached their Revolutionary Way show…a slightly different way. John Adams this is not; Sons of Liberty is a burly, fast-paced, explosion-happy production that plays fast and loose with the historical record and features an awesome main title from Hans Zimmer himself.
There has been some considerable pushback in the most literal parts of the internet over the show’s often laughable deviation from the record (personal favorite: George Washington’s blood vendetta against General Gage takes on Optimus Prime/Megatron levels of antagonism). And I’ll admit that there is a point to most of these barbs. Facts have been largely sacrificed on the altar of gonzo patriotism.
But I’ve been happy to look past that. If you want hardcore history, there are plenty of other options out there. Plus, the producers have made it clear that they’re operating in the realm of historical fiction. As a follower of that particular genre, I can buy it.
So, with all those big, fat caveats in place here’s the straight dope: Sons of Liberty is good fun. It never bored, features some actors who are way into it and is so patriotic Ted Nugent would recoil from its red, white and blueness.
At the forefront is Sam Adams (Ben Barnes, Second Son) who’s transformed into a dashing rogue for the purposes of the miniseries. A black market dealer and all-around scoundrel, Sam has been square in the sights of the British army for some time.
He eventually comes around to the idea of full-scale revolution, thanks to fellow Sons of Liberty John Hancock (Rafe Spall) and his brother John (Henry Thomas). From there, the greatest hits of the run-up to war drop: the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s night ride, the Battle of Lexington and Concord and, eventually, the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Washington (Jason O’Mara) and Gage (Marton Csokas) show up in the latter part of the run, but add some appreciated gravitas. Their hero/villain relationship may be overblown to comic book levels, they’re entertaining characters regardless.
Soup to nuts, Sons of Liberty is a flawed, uneven affair. But its blockbuster approach to history and the galvanizing subject matter that it’s based upon make it a worthwhile time investment for anyone remotely interested in the period. Besides, if you want to know the actual boring old facts, History Channel has a pile of info on its website to satiate you nerds.
Blu-ray is the way to go for the full Sons experience and Lionsgate delivers. On the technical front, the 1.78:1, 1080p HD transfer and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio offers the requisite Blu experience, high-res, filled with color and big and brash and loud. Three featurettes for the extras: “Lensing Liberty” (shooting the series), “Men of Independence” (casting and characters) and “The Choreography of War” (staging the battle sequences).