I appreciate that I am almost two decades too late to review Braveheart but sometimes when I wade through my DVD shelves a dusty cover catches my eye and I think, why not?
I am not a historian and although I am too lazy to research William Wallace I suspect that a quick google search of the various characters may highlight some flaws in the timeline of events. I am however Irish and as the Irish are particularly badass in Braveheart I am quite content to ignore all historical inaccuracies.
PLOT: Set in the 13th century when Scotland is in a period of civil and political unrest with England; William Wallace (Mel Gibson) returns to his homeland after several decades touring Europe with his uncle (Brian Cox) to find that that King Edward I (Patrick McGoohan) has granted Primae Noctis in an attempt to bring Scotland under his control. Wallace wants to live in peace and secretly marries his childhood love Murron (Catherine McCormack) but when Murron is killed by an English Lord Wallace rallies the bickering Scottish nobility with the goal of driving the English from Scotland once and for all. END PLOT
The plot of Braveheart covers several genres such as a tragic love story, a political thriller and of course a historical epic. There are also some genuinely comedic moments thanks to the banter between the characters which feel surprisingly natural despite the serious content of the film. It is easy as a reviewer to point out the historical and anachronistic errors but it is also lazy. I’d rather give Braveheart credit for successfully creating a film that caters to such a broad audience than score cheap points (this does happen on occasion).
Mel Gibson has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism over the past number of years, most of which is his own fault entirely. It is easy to forget just how charismatic he can be as an actor and frankly the Scottish accent isn’t as bad as people make it out to be.
The strong supporting cast features the always welcome and wonderful Brendan Gleeson as well as a countless number of familiar faces such as Catherine McCormack, Brian Cox, Patrick McGoohan and Tommy Flanagan. The cast cannot be faulted.
The battle scenes are gritty and although they contain a fair amount of blood Gibson keeps the action grounded. If Braveheart was made in 2014 it would be filled with slow motion shots and stylised blood spurts so by today’s standards the hand-to-hand combat is probably dated but the film looks much better for it. Overall the cinematography is excellent and some of the wide open shots of the Scottish countryside are simply stunning.
One of the most iconic features of Braveheart is the instantly recognisable score. I absolutely love Celtic themed scores therefore James Horner's Braveheart has always been considered one of my all-time favourites. It is one of the few films that I will sit through the closing credits just to listen to the music. This is a rare occurrence.
Braveheart is by no means perfect but there is something about the film that always draws me in. Even if I attempt to watch it with a critical or even cynical eye my heart is breaking by the films end. Braveheart is a rare treat that deserves to be watched and enjoyed once every few years. It gets 8/10. It gets extra credit for influencing one of my favourite episodes of South Park.