Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Brian Cox, Patrick McGoohan, Catherine McCormack, David O’Hara, Brendan Gleeson and Agnus MacFadyen
Academy Awards (1996):
Best Cinematography: John Toll
Best Director: Mel Gibson
Best Makeup: Peter Frampton, Paul Pattison, Lois Burwell
Best Picture: Mel Gibson, Alan Ladd Jr., and Bruce Davey
Best Sound Effects Editing: Lon Bender, Per Hallberg
Academy Award Nominations:
Best Costume Design: Charles Knode
Best Film Editing: Steven Rosenblum
Best Music, Original Dramatic Score: James Horner
Best Sound: Andy Nelson, Scott Millan, Anna Behlmer, Brian Simmons
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Randall Wallace
“It’s all for nothing if you don’t have freedom.”
In 1280, King Edward “Longshanks” (Patrick McGoohan) of England claims the vacant Scottish throne for himself following the death of the Scottish king. He kills a lot of the Scottish nobility, luring them under the guise of peace. In the ensuing battles, Malcolm Wallace, a commoner, and his oldest son John are also killed. William Wallace (Gibson), Malcolm’s other son, goes away to Italy with his Uncle Argyle Wallace (Brian Cox). Returning 20 years later, he meets back up with childhood friend Hamish (Brendan Gleeson) and Murron MacClannough (Catherine McCormack), a girl he has always been in love with.
Longshanks had issued a decree of “Prima Nocte” where English noblemen with land rights in Scotland can have sex with a new bride on her wedding night. Wallace and Murron marry in secret to avoid this. Some time later, Murron attacks an English soldier who tries to rape her, leading the local magistrate to tie her up and slit her throat.
Wrong move dude.
An enraged Wallace kills the local garrison, magistrate included, and declares that the Scottish people will no longer be ruled by the English. His growing army takes the fight to the English, while Robert the Bruce (Angus MacFayden) acts as a go between for Wallace with the feuding Scottish nobles.
Historical inaccuracies aside, this is a pretty entertaining movie that offers a little bit for everyone. It is primarily an epic, but it mixes in drama, action, comedy and romance and kept me engaged throughout the 177 minutes of running time. I’ve seen this film plenty of times, and though it’s one I can quote extensively, I tried to come into it with a clean slate.
The countryside shots are magnificent, and James Horner write a dazzling soundtrack that complements the film’s cinematography. The battle sequences were impressive given the scope and scale involved with each one. Though mildly gory by my standards, this one had just enough blood and guts to be believable. The only thing about the battle sequences for me was how long they lasted. I feel like they could have been shortened up a bit while still getting the same message and point across.
Given the scope and massive undertaking Braveheart was, it’s not all that surprising that the next time Gibson directed a movie was nine years later with Passion of the Christ.
In addition to an impressive directing job, Mel Gibson’s acting was well done. He balances the conflict with the Scottish nobles, the English, and his own internal driving force following the murder of his beloved Murron. His character is macho, but also intelligent, sensible, and at times humorous. It’s hard for me to criticize his performance. I think the fact that he directed the film helped enhance his performance on-screen.
Both Angus MacFayden and Patrick McGoohan did great jobs as Robert the Bruce and King Edward I. McGoohan’s villain is relentless, conniving, and to the point. It was interesting to see how his character changed as time went by health-wise. He’s a guy you just want to hate.
Bruce’s character is almost more interesting as a character study than anyone else in Braveheart. The internal struggle as he battles between what’s expected of him as a Scottish nobleman contrasted with what he believes is right is something I’ve always found intriguing. Some of the best scenes of the film, in my opinion, take place with him talking with his father.
Stephen (David O’Hara) and Hamish are great supporting characters. Though Stephen is mostly there for comic relief, he has a few moments of genuine and honest concern with some of the decisions William made. It was also interesting in seeing Hamish as he fought alongside his dad, Campbell (James Cosmo), and how their relationship grew through the film.
One thing that sets this movie apart from your run-of-the-mill epic is the underlying romantic influence on Wallace and his relationship with Murron and Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau). William is the most vulnerable and realistic when he’s with each woman. Though the romantic development at times seemed cliché, here it worked well and integrated into the story.
When one thinks of Braveheart: “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take OUR FREEDOM!” and “Every man dies, not every man really lives.” comes to mind. It’s more than just the battles and bloodshed. A king trying to hold on to power, a noble son struggling with what’s most important, and a reluctant warrior carrying the burdens of a nation while coping with the loss of virtually everyone close to him all flow together to create an entertaining film worthy of the Best Picture Academy Award.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.