Many elements combine to give The Patriot a valid claim to greatness. The magnificent performance of Emil Jannings as the mad Czar Paul alone. Besides Jannings the production has a whole array of assets. Story value is excellent, cast is almost flawless and the physical production is rich in beauty and fine graphic background.
Time is the late 18th century, and locale the richly picturesque atmosphere of the Russian court under Czar Paul, the insane emperor of all the Russias, idiot-monster of Nero-like proportions. Surrounded by murderous plots, the only creature the madman trusts is his minister of war, Count Pahlen (Lewis Stone).
The role of Pahlen is really the star part, and it is only Jannings’ genius that holds up the character of the Czar. Stone gives a balanced and polished performance. Pahlen is pictured as a suave man of the world rather than the paragon of virtue as legendary heroes are usually presented. Character comes on the screen without heroics.
Pictorially the production is full of magnificent bits. One of the sets is the vast palace courtyard and long shots of soldiers moving through its intricate vistas, columns of foot soldiers with galloping horsemen weaving around dim corners and streaking across the snow-covered spaces, are stunning effects.
Sound effects are managed inconspicuously. There is no dialog.
1928/29: Best Writing.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Lewis Stone), Art Direction