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Matt's Braveheart Review
Braveheart is just one of a whole string of masterpieces to be released in the 1990s, a decade I consider to be a modern golden-age for film. Were I to construct a list of my top 20 films of all time, Braveheart would almost certainly be on it. I consider it one of the most gorgeous movies ever shot, an unabashedly dramatic and romantic film that rejuvenated and redefined the epic genre.
- This is easily one of the grittiest mid-evil epics ever, and while the film is consistently watchable, there’s more than one shot guaranteed to make you wince no matter how many times you see it. I’ve never seen a more believable depiction of medieval warfare.
- Randall Wallace really outdid himself on the script, he was nominated for an academy award for his work, but didn’t win.Still, to write such a larger than life story and have it never degrade into cheesiness or camp is a huge achievement.
- I really liked Robert the Bruce’s arc, he’s really the most complex character in the film. The pragmatist to William Wallace’s idealist. I’ll talk about Agnus Macfadyen’s fantastic performance in the performances section, but I really liked this character.
- Edward the Longshanks is one of my favorite villains in film. The character is deliciously vile in all his ways and everything he says is pure gold.
- Historical inaccuracies – I’d like to preface this by saying I have a B.S. in history. History is important and fascinating to me, but when it comes to film, while accuracy is certainly a bonus, it is not a prerequisite. I think anyone who watches this film ought to be very much aware that this is a dramatization based on true events, and is not meant to be a documentary. While I understand the frustration that people seem to have with the inaccuracy of this film, I can only respond by reiterating what a monumental achievement this classic actually is. The Battle of Sterling, for example, in no way reflects the manner in which the actual battle of Sterling Bridge was fought, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more iconic battle-sequence shot in the last 30 years.
Revising history in favor of dramatic weight is just a part of the film business, always has been and always will be.
Braveheart features an incredible array of capable talent, a lot of familiar faces, all of whom are awesome in their roles.In addition to Mel Gibson, Agnus Macfadyen, and Catherine McCormack, look for James Cosmo, Brian Cox, Sophie Marceau, Brendan Gleeson, Patrick McGoohan, Tommy Flanagan, and Peter Mullan.
- Mel Gibson turns in the most gritty and heart-wrenching performance of his career. Only an actor of his caliber would’ve been capable of elevating a movie the way he did here. I can rave about how awesome the rest of the cast is, but this is largely Gibson’s film, as he not only stars, but he directs.It’s a towering accomplishment. Gibson would go on to star in other films, but he would never garner the sort of critical and audience reception that he got for Braveheart. As far as I’m concerned, Gibson never topped Braveheart, and I think it highly unlikely that he ever will.
- Agnus Macfadyen is an interesting character actor out of Scotland.In Braveheart, he plays Robert the Bruce, a conflicted nobleman of Scotland with the most legitimate claim to the throne. Macfadyen manages to hold the screen opposite Gibson. His character was extremely important to the film. Robert the Bruce is a very flawed character. Macfadyen manages to get the audience to sympathize with his character no matter where the story takes him.
- The touch of innocence, the emotional center of the film is Murron, who is excellently played by the lovely Catherine McCormack. The essence of the character is relatively simple, but she brings charm and grace to a film that would’ve been sadly lacking in both. That she played her part so well goes a long way towards making the film emotionally effective. Her arc also cements William Wallace as a sympathetic character in the eyes of the audience.
Music, Cinematography and Special Effects
- James Horner does some of his finest work on Braveheart. This is some of the most gorgeous and emotional scores I’ve ever heard. That he didn’t win the Oscar is utterly ridiculous.
- The director of Photography on Braveheart was a man named John Toll. He also worked on Legends of the Fall, The Thin Red Line, and The Last Samurai. I think we can safely say, the man knows his trade, and that Braveheart won Best Cinematography was no accident.As I’ve already said, Braveheart is one of the most gorgeous films I’ve ever seen.
- There’s very little in the way of CGI in this film as far as I’m aware. If they needed to set something on fire, they actually set it on fire. That was the beauty of the nineties. That being said, there’s plenty of eye-candy in this film, and the battle sequences are spectacular.
The Bottom Line
Movies just don’t get much better than Braveheart. Historical inaccuracies aside, Braveheart represents the pinnacle of everything one would want in a film. Braveheart will make you laugh one minute, and bring you to tears the next. It’s beautifully shot, brilliantly acted and relentlessly entertaining. For all those reasons and for the countless movies that owe debts to this film, I give Braveheart my highest recommendation.10/10