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Movie Review: Braveheart

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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 chord 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.

Britt's Rating: 10.0/10

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About Britt Gillette

  • To echo Gareth’s comments, Scotland is not actually independent yet though we did get devolution in 1999 (twenty years after originally voting for it in 1979!).

    It shouldn’t be too long to normal national status now though. The independence movement has been growing ever since devolution and there is a good chance of the Scottish pro-independence parties winning in 2007, see scottishindependence.com for more details

  • Gareth

    Just to point out something that is inaccurate with this review. The independence movement in Scotland was not successful during the 1990’s as Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom. Perhaps soon it will be successful.