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Monday, February 27, 2006

Oscar Review: Braveheart (1995)

Though filled with historical inaccuracies, Braveheart is nonetheless an epic tale of love, freedom, and the triumph of the human spirit against injustice and adversity.

William Wallace (Mel Gibson) is a well-educated but simple man hoping to start a family and raise crops on his family's farm in 13th century Scotland. Taken to live with his uncle Argyle (Brian Cox) as a young boy after the death of his father and brother in battle, William becomes well-versed in language, swordsmanship, and is left with a deep sense of honor and justice.

In the intervening years, King Edward Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) sets a number of decrees upon the Scottish people including a law that English lords had a "right" to sleep with any new bride on her wedding night in order to "breed them out." When William marries in secret, his wife (Catherine McCormack) is discovered by a soldier and is subsequently killed when she defends herself and attacks her captors.

Understandably, this sends William into a rage seeking vengeance for his murdered bride and, by extension, freedom for all of Scotland.

Not uncommon, the king forces his wimp of a son to marry Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau) of France for political reasons. She has never liked her father-in-law and sympathizes with the plight of the Scots and is instrumental in the success of their efforts.

All the while, the heir apparent to the Scottish throne, Robert the Bruce (Angus Macfadyen), is coming into his own and walking the delicate balance between uniting a country and making a place for himself should the English be victorious. It is up to William to rally the troops, bring the clans together, and enliven within them the spirit that will lead to a free Scotland, whatever the cost.
Winner of 5 Academy Awards - including Best Picture, Director (Gibson), Cinematography, Sound Effects, and Makeup - Braveheart is a tremendous film that has something for everyone. There's love, adventure, good vs. evil, passion, humor, and plenty of battle scenes.

While AFI passed on including it on its top 100 list, Braveheart is honored as the #91 thrill. It is filled with great depth and spans the entire spectrum of emotions from great sadness to great passion, from defeat to triumph, from betrayal to redemption. This film is entertaining, moving, and all in all a most enjoyable movie. Watch it.