Braveheart is the epic story of a courageous 13th Century Scotsman, the legendary William Wallace (Mel Gibson), whose cry for freedom from the yoke of British rule resounded throughout Scotland, and rallied ordinary people to his side to fight. Wallace inspired these simple men and lead them to impossible victories against terrible odds. Professional English soldiers, and “expendable” Irish, sent by tyrannical King Edward I (Patrick McGoohan) to squelch the uprising, vastly outnumbered Wallace’s small army of commoners.

All Wallace wanted originally was to lead a simple life, marry his childhood sweetheart (Catherine McCormack) and raise a family. But a terrible fate befalls her at the hands of English soldiers. Wallace ferociously battles them with a small group of local farmers and vanquishes the soldiers and ultimately, their entire fort. Other commoners flocked to his side.

Gory, grisly, and Gibsony, Braveheart is especially enjoyable if you’re into disembowelment, lances through the chest, being racked, dagger in the eyeball, sword hacking at the gonads, decapitation, axe bisecting the head, and various sabers, sickles and skewers through parts of assorted humans, preferably but not necessarily the English enemy.

One of the most stunning betrayals in history (if it is true) occurred when Scottish nobleman Robert the Bruce (Angus Macfadyen),who had previously sworn fealty to Edward I, now affirmed his loyalty to Wallace and the people of Scotland, by giving his word to join them in fighting for freedom. Robert the Bruce ultimately betrays Wallace, even though he greatly admires him. Mel Gibson does some of his finest acting in the scene where it finally dawns on Wallace that his friend is really his enemy. No dialogue was required to express the depth of Wallace’s anguish.

The battle scenes in Braveheart are among the most bloody ever filmed, but they are also among the most exciting this side of Kurosawa. An R rating was given for “brutal medieval warfare.”

It’s no surprise that Braveheart was nominated for 10 Oscars, and won 5, including Best Picture (1995), Best Director (Mel Gibson), Sound Effects, Make-up, and Cinematography.

The second disc features an in-depth interview with producer-director-star Mel Gibson who confesses he asked Clint Eastwood (“the tall man”) for advice on directing Braveheart. Eastwood told him “It’ll come to you.” Mel reports gleefully, “And he was right! It did come to me.”

An interview with screenwriter Randall Wallace (no relation to William) discloses the “nugget of a story” that resulted in Braveheart. Wallace admits his screenplay may not be the whole truth because very little historical information was ever recorded about William Wallace, other than his battles, fierce patriotism and love for Scotland. As the story unfolded on Randall Wallace’s computer, many great lines just “came to him and sounded right.” I have to agree that the imaginary conversations which took place between William Wallace and his lady love, or between him and Robert the Bruce, or his inspirational speech to reluctant warriors that got them fighting with such passion, have the ring of verisimilitude.

This Special Collectors Edition of Braveheart should do well in sales.

Grade: A-


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