Release Date: 19 May, 1995
Oscar Ceremony: 25 March, 1996
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan
Nominees: Apollo 13, Babe, Il Postino, Sense & Sensibility
“It’s all for nothing if you don’t have freedom.” – William Wallace
Similarly to the recent winner Dances With Wolves, Braveheart is an epic film that stars its director. You can draw a few parallels between the two, and I guess that if you find a formula that works with the Academy you stick to it. All the epics I’ve watched must have served some sort of purpose, because when I heard that Braveheart‘s runtime was 2 hours and 57 minutes I was actually relieved and considered it reasonably short. Looks like I’m finally getting used to this.
Mel Gibson plays William Wallace, a proud Scot affected by the cruel rule and Scottish invasion of the English King Edward “Longshanks” during the 13th century. The film starts with Wallace as a young boy, who gets taken on a pilgrimage throughout Europe shortly after the deaths of his brother and father. As a grown man, he returns to Scotland, falls in love his childhood friend Murron, and marries her in secret in order to circumnavigate the king’s newly enforced right of “Primae noctis.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this law essentially gives noblemen the right to sleep with the bride of a common man on her wedding night. If you’ve been on the fence about marriage, here’s your definite deal breaker.
One day, an English soldier attempts to rape Murron, and while Wallace initially saves her, she eventually gets executed for trying to fight back and run away. This tragedy sparks a fire within Wallace, who already had disdain for the English to begin with. As a result, he begins a revolt against Longshanks and strives for Scotland’s freedom.
Braveheart has often been labelled as one of the most historically inaccurate films of all time. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not heavily entertaining; it just means you have to take it with a grain of salt. The values it touches at its core – like love, freedom, patriotism, and honour – are universal truths that we can all relate to. I honestly don’t know much about Scotland’s history, nor am I a huge fan of long action scenes, but I have to admit that within the first 15 minutes I was already emotional and drawn into the cause. As a director, Gibson definitely succeeds at breathing life into this tale and bringing out a human side that we can all understand regardless of our backgrounds or interests.
After returning from the gorgeous landscapes of Nova Scotia and impatiently awaiting the next Game of Thrones episode, this movie was a pretty perfect thing to watch for me. The cinematography and sceneries are breathtaking, and most of the battle scenes are epic. They are very bloody and violent, so be advised that they are certainly not for the faint of heart. Still, it’s amazing how satisfying it is to watch bad guys die horrible, ugly deaths. It’s one of the rare occasions where I have no problem watching men’s skulls get cracked with heavy war hammers, or their bodies pierced and impaled with swords, or their limbs severed and throats slit with blood gushing out of everywhere. I mean, let’s face it: they had it coming and they deserved it.
Apparently, Mel Gibson didn’t even want to play William Wallace and thought he was at least a decade too old for the part. He only accepted after Paramount said it would not fund it otherwise. I enjoyed this piece of trivia as it took away from the vanity at play when a director decides to cast himself as the star of his movie and elevates himself on a pedestal. Mel Gibson did a pretty good job at poking fun at himself and the amount of vanity was just right considering the nature of the project. He also succeeded in inserting a lot of natural comedic moments throughout the film, which helped lighten the mood during very dark times. My struggle with not being able to take him seriously finally worked in my favour.
In the end, Braveheart IS actually a bit of an emotional downer in some instances. Despite the fact that it’s really cheesy, it does not shy away from tragic fates that are often atypical of Hollywood blockbusters. While the ending is ultimately satisfying, I couldn’t help but feel deep sadness multiple times throughout. The thing is, the fact that I felt that sadness shows that the film had an impact on me and did not leave me indifferent, which is a very good sign. Critics and audiences have often pointed out its flaws, and while it might not be the masterpiece of a lifetime, I think it’s still a very good movie.