Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (1995) is a massive undertaking with brutal battles, sweet romances, political intrigue, and above all, Scottish patriotism! It is righteous and well intentioned in trying to convince viewers that Scottish should be a free and independent country separate from Great Britain after their centuries of tyranny. Gibson accomplishes entertaining the audience with the goriest war battles with swords, axes, lances, hammers, arrows, and horses clashing on the field. But what I continue to admire most about Braveheart is Gibson’s patriotic tone towards Scotland considering he himself is Australian.
Braveheart’s battles are truly impressive. Swords hack off limbs, lances thrust into the cavalry’s horses, axes penetrate skulls, hammers pound faces, arrows pierce armor and flesh alike, and scores of extras sprint full speed towards chaos. Gibson captures the insanely chaotic sphere of medieval combat. There are so many people fighting that it could be easy to lose focus, but Gibson keeps you exhilarated with finely focused blade combat. I think the 2 major battles within Braveheart remain some of the most visceral war sequences in any film.
Notably, Braveheart is notorious for Mel Gibson stretching the truth, getting facts wrong, and putting in historically inaccurate era items in Braveheart for the sake of entertaining audiences. I can forgive him this as Braveheart is still a finely directed film. I do feel the need to mention some of these points for the sake of honesty. William Wallace was apparently 6 feet and 5 inches tall at least, closer to 7 feet tall, whereas Mel Gibson is 5 feet and 10 inches tall.
Furthermore, the Scottish people did not wear that cool blue war paint at that point, nor did they have kelts yet. James Horner’s score is rising and sweeps you into the middle of the fray or across Scottish natural highlands. However, the bagpipes used in the score are not from the era depicted. There are several more significant changes in regards to historical figures, but this has been covered to death already, so I shall leave it at that. Again, Braveheart is amazing in nearly every other area other than accuracy.
Anyways, Mel Gibson is gripping as the Scottish folk hero and historical martyr William Wallace. His dramatic, romantic, and leadership acting give Wallace the respect and brave persona he earned in life. Brendan Gleeson is excellent and endearing as the massive and mighty Hamish. Catherine McCormack is lovely and sweet as Wallace’s wife Murron. Sophie Marceau is gorgeous and interesting as Princess Isabelle.
Likewise, Patrick McGoohan’s King Edward is one of cinema’s most fearsome and cruel villains. Angus Macfayden is fascinating as Robert the Bruce. Although he was William Wallace’s ally, Braveheart makes him the temporary traitor for narrative purposes. This is dishonest as well as inaccurate, but Macfayden is outstanding portraying this complex figure.
To conclude, Braveheart is rife with historical inaccuracies and mistakes, but Gibson’s acting and direction will keep you engaged for the entirety of Braveheart’s massive run-time.