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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Braveheart

Starring: Mel Gibson, Patrick McGoohan
Director: Mel Gibson
Rated: R
RunTime: 177 Minutes
Release Date: May 1995
Genres: Action, War, Drama

*Also starring: Catherine McCormack, Sophie Marceau, Brendan Gleeson, James Cosmo, David O'Hara, Angus McFadyen, Peter Hanly, James Robinson

Review by Brian Koller
3 stars out of 4

"Braveheart" is a very good film despite serious flaws. The cinematography, costumes, and direction is excellent and generally overcomes problems with plot and character development.

"Braveheart" takes place in Scotland, during the Dark Ages. Scotland is repressed by England, led by brutal King Longshanks. William Wallace (Mel Gibson), a Scot commoner, avenges the death of his father, grandfather, wife, etc. the hands of the British by leading the Scots in a war for freedom.

There may be some spoilers in the following paragraphs.

Historical accuracy in epics is not always important to a film's quality. Any film that is not a documentary should be considered fiction, anyway. However, if history is to be rewritten for the sake of simplification (Scots are just and good, Brits are cynical and bad) or drama (Longshanks' son is gay, and Wallace beds the Princess of Wales) it should at least be credible.

I thought that there was excessive violence in the film. There are endless spearings, stabbings, beatings, etc. "Braveheart" appears to be both pro-violence and pro-war. Wallace is invincible in hand-to-hand conflict, killing at least a dozen Brits, including several after an arrow has punctured his chest.

To justify the carnage, the British king is depicted as evil incarnate, needing only to shoot lightning out of his fingers to match the wickedness of the emperor in the Star Wars films.

I didn't like the character of Longshanks son. He is so homosexual that he can't kiss his gorgeous bride at his wedding. His hair and clothes are sissy. He has a lover who is pushed off a tower by Longshanks, and no doubt the audience is expected to applaud this gesture. Surely Hollywood should be beyond such depiction by now.

In a three hour film, I counted four women who have lines. Two of the characters are very minor, the other two are very beautiful women, one of whom is Wallace's wife, while the other bears his child. In the world of "Braveheart", women only serve to supplement Wallace's manhood.

Despite these annoying flaws, I still believe that "Braveheart" is a very good film. The major redemption comes from the cinematography. The forests, valleys are villages of Scotland are filmed in panning shots to full advantage. The costumes are great, and Gibson's direction (the aforementioned problems can be blamed on the story) is also excellent. The length of the film and its slow pace also help, since it broadens the characters and builds the dramatic tension.

Copyright 1995 Brian Koller

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