Oscar Movie Month: "Braveheart" Review

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

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Rating: R

Length: 177 minutes

Release Date: May 24, 1995

Directed by: Mel Gibson

Genre: Action / Biography / Drama


Few historical action films manage to grip audiences and create a lasting impression, but "Braveheart" accomplishes this and so much more. An epic tale starring and directed by Mel Gibson, "Braveheart" features top-notch acting, storytelling and cinematography. William Wallace portrays a Scottish commoner who has lost one too many loved ones to the ruling English kingdom, which is led by the iron-fist of King Edward the Longshanks. Wallace and the rest of the Scottish people feel that the English have gone too far, and Wallace sets out on a path to lead the Scottish warriors in a massive rebellion.

England has invaded and taken over Scotland in the 13th century, and King Edward I has given English nobility the right to own various areas of the conquered country. The English nobility are granted hefty privileges, such as the right to take newly married women into their beds on their wedding night. King Edward hopes this might breed out the Scottish people over time, eliminating the supposedly inferior race. William Wallace, a young farm boy, is disappointed when his father and brother leave to fight the English without him, and he is devastated when he learns of their deaths at the hands of English treachery. Wallace then receives an education and learns to fight, and 10 years later, he returns to his home a changed man. 

Although Wallace initially wishes to live peacefully on his farm, he is soon drawn to battle when his newlywed wife is executed by the English. After the bloodshed, the common people begin to follow Wallace, who makes the bold decision to lead a massive revolt against England. As the feats of Wallace continue to grow in severity, Edward plots to suppress the uprising. Further twists unfold as Wallace tries to gain the support of the Scottish nobility and falls in love with a beautiful French princess. After a valiant battle, Wallace's ties are tested as an unexpected turn brings him to the biggest moment of his life. 

"Braveheart" takes an important historical event and makes it memorable for viewers, adding the perfect mix of drama, romance, action and suspense. The film features plenty of quote-worthy material that encourages thought and introspection. The film has also spawned one of the most famous speeches in cinematic history, which occurs when Wallace encourages his disheartened troops to press on to battle. Themes such as justice, patriotism, self-sacrifice, betrayal and love are all explored in this film as they are seamlessly weaved into the storyline.

In both his acting and his directing, Mel Gibson brings heart and passion into this film, creating a lasting impact on viewers. The landscape of Scotland and the architecture of the villages and buildings are both engaging and realistic, drawing audiences into a unique place and time. The story celebrates the heroism of one warrior, but it also celebrates the idea of freedom and equality among societies. Overall, "Braveheart" features a well-paced plot, great cinematography and all other aspects of an Oscar-worthy film. 

One unique characteristic of "Braveheart" is that it appeals to an extremely broad audience. Although the film does contain a considerable amount of graphic violence, the gore lends itself to the tale rather than creating a distraction. This leads viewers to readily focus on the plot and the main character, both of which are beautifully executed. The tale is both epic and noble, leaving viewers cheering the whole way through. Wallace himself, who is portrayed marvelously by Gibson, is a likable character reminiscent of the ancient heroes who have sacrificed themselves for the good of their loved ones. This type of story following the pursuit of justice resonates with viewers of every background.

Despite its numerous accomplishments, "Braveheart" simply would not be complete without a fitting musical score. The beautiful compositions, which are performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by James Horner, bring the perfect touch of emotion to every scene. Haunting tracks and epic anthems work together with cinematic techniques to convey specific feelings to the viewer. The soundtrack has become a success in its own right and is regarded as one of Horner's greatest works.

"Braveheart" is both engaging and incredibly important, but it is often difficult to watch due to its emotional scenes and treacherous situations. Featuring great performances by talented actors, this film does not disappoint even the most critical movie-goer. "Braveheart" is an excellent flick to watch more than once, and is sure to remain on the list of cinematic classics for years to come.

Rating: 4 out of 5