Review by Carson Hearne
Running Time: 3 hours 2 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for brutal medieval warfare
Directed by: Mel Gibson
Written by: Randall Wallace
Starring: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, and Catherine McCormack
Mel Gibson’s greatest effort is undoubtedly his direction and performance in his historical action/adventure, Braveheart. Although, his highly inflated ego seems to get in the way of the pre-Lord of the Rings masterfully crafted cinematic battles at times. This film still seems to beat down all flaws in the end and creates a highly enjoyable experience; as well as a very emotional one. Being a descendant of Scottish ancestors, I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t multiple times where I had to hold myself back from standing up in the theater and belting out a battle cry.
1280 AD, William Wallace (Mel Gibson) is a Scottish man who only wants to live in peace at his father’s cottage, where he was raised. Under the tyrannical rule of King Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan), he tries to mind his own business until his wife (Catherine McCormack) is brutally murdered for resisting rape from one of the King’s nobles. After losing the one thing he cares for, he ignites a fire of courage and rage in his fellow citizens as he leads them into battle for the freedom of their country.
The general message behind Braveheart is probably the greatest aspect of the film other than it’s perfectly placed score and it’s beautiful production design; that together sent chills through my body multiple times throughout. I have seen this film twice before, but never had it hit me as hard as it did this viewing. The characters are all so well developed and even after three hours worth of battles, shenanigans, and politics, you still are wishing that there was more to it. The villain, Longshanks, is such a cunning dirty bastard that you writhe in his failures. He’s one of those characters that make you lightly punch your TV screen when they show up. Does anybody else do that? No, just me? Alright.
The biggest aspect of this film that I just couldn’t enjoy is how perfect Mel Gibson makes the character of William Wallace out to be. I mean, he’s like the James Bond of the 13th century with much less charm. He’s constantly spitting words of wisdom left and right, which most of the time hits the mark; but, the times that don’t work and feel forced slightly ruins the character of William Wallace for me. He even has two sex scenes in the film that I felt were mostly unnecessary. The character I found to be the most relatable was Robert the Bruce, the soon to be King of Scotland, who gives a wonderful performance as someone conflicted between two nations. The most powerful scenes (other than the climax) in the film include Robert the Bruce. He is so realistic in the fact that he wants to do what’s right and even after failing, he comes to terms with himself and does the right thing. The relationship between Robert the Bruce and his father made for some very emotional and intense scenes.
Another great character is the Irishman, Stephen, who makes for some much great comedic relief; which are some of the most memorable moments in the film. I felt that the moments of William’s childhood were generally unneeded and the later sequences describing his childhood experiences would have been much more powerful. After watching around 10 hours of the extended Lord of the Rings, I feel that the battle sequences in Braveheart are among the most entertaining I’ve ever seen. The overall climax of the film has always been, at least for me, one of the strongest climax’s ever made.
Braveheart is a marvelous adventure film that I recommend to any fan of film epics. Although containing a few flaws, it surpasses them by conveying a well written story with amazingly crafted costumes and settings. This film contains some of the most enjoyable characters, each putting forth a great performance. As a non-Mel Gibson fan, I highly enjoy Braveheart and can easily say that it is some of his best work.