Braveheart (DVD) Review

by : Britt Gillette

Long before The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson directed another cinematic masterpiece, Braveheart. Filmed against the backdrop of majestic mountains and rolling meadows, it tells the historically-based (yet not entirely accurate) story of William Wallace, a common man’s warrior who led the Scottish people in rebellion against King Edward I, also known as “Longshanks". Written by Randall Wallace, an American tourist fascinated with a Scottish statue of his namesake, the script collected dust in Hollywood for over a decade before Gibson made the brilliant decision to put it on the big screen. Just like The Passion, it’s a decision he would not regret.

Set in the 11th Century, Braveheart catalogues the struggle of Scottish serfs who labor under the brutal oppression of English occupation forces. Amidst these terrible conditions, William Wallace (Mel Gibson) falls in love with Murron MacClannough (Catherine McCormack). Insistent on not sharing his wife (a proclamation by the king gives local rulers “first-night rights" to new brides) Wallace secretly marries Murron. Nevertheless, an English knight assaults her, sparking a fight with Wallace. Fleeing the village, Wallace believes Murron has escaped and will soon meet him at a secret rendezvous point. But Murron is captured and executed by the king’s emissaries.

Angered by his wife’s murder, Wallace instigates a local rebellion, slaughtering all the king’s loyalists in his village. As his rebellion grows, a distraught Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) dispatches his fabled Northern Army to destroy it. But the heroic Wallace delivers a stirring speech to rouse his men, while deploying an ingenious battlefield trick to defeat the king’s cavalry.

With the power and legend of Wallace growing day by day, Longshanks relies on his daughter-in-law, Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau) to broker a truce. But Isabelle’s power is limited, and Wallace realizes his people can only win freedom if backed by the Scottish nobles. Their appointed leader is Robert the Bruce (Angus MacFadyen) who vacillates between his own idealistic views and his father’s pessimistic pragmatism. Will the nobles join with Wallace? Will the Scots win their freedom? Only history tells us the answer.

With elaborate costumes, vivid battle scenes, and a noble hero as its focal point, Braveheart is more than your typical run-of-the-mill action movie. Part history, part Hollywood heroism – its timeless idealism strikes a cord with every viewer. In fact, the movie itself led to a revival in nationalistic pride that fueled the successful Scottish independence movement of the 1990s. It’s a testament to the strength and character of the real life William Wallace. A thousand years later, his enduring legacy continues to transform the European landscape, and Mel Gibson captures the noble warrior’s passion with an awe-inspiring Academy Award-winning masterpiece.