King Edward of England rules Scotland with an iron fist. The Scots find themselves at the mercy of their cruel and ruthless occupiers. A brave commoner, William Wallace, takes up the fight for freedom. To do so he must unite the quarreling Scottish clans against the powerful English army.  

Directed by: Mel Gibson,
Starring: Mel Gibson, Patrick McGoohan, Angus MacFadyen, Sophie Marceau

Braveheart is a ludicrous movie. It abounds in clichés and fully embraces every absurdity. Still, I found that I really enjoyed the movie. Braveheart falls under the genre of historical fiction. Of course, the fiction is emphasized over the history. This movie tells of a living man transformed into legend. It is appropriate that the storyline heavily resembles ancient myths. Braveheart aspires to be Epic with a capital E.

Throughout the film we are asked, “What makes a good and a bad leader?” At the one end stands William Wallace played by Mel Gibson, who fights for idealism and the commoner. At the other end stands King Edward called “Longshanks” by his enemies. This king exemplifies cruel and selfish leadership. Finally, Robert the Bruce, a Scottish noble, straddles the middle line wavering between the practical and the idealistic course.   

Remember. Braveheart emphasizes the mythical aspect of the tale. Many of the characters are unfortunately very black and white. They represent ideas more than people. This is not necessarily bad; but you might find yourself disappointed if you are looking for deeply developed personalities.

The weakest part of the movie for me was actually the insufferably long exposition. After Wallace loses his childhood and innocence following the deaths of his father and brother, the film dwells on an Epic Romance and the Horrible Atrocities the Scots suffer at the hands of the English. (Yes, the capitalization is intentional.) The themes in this hour are broadcast so overtly that the scenes become emotionally inert and even cartoonish. They are expressed more effectively in the later, subtler moments of the film.  

Eventually, the film arrive at the first major battle scene. Finally, the actual story can begin. The battle sequences are a real treat to watch. Nicely choreographed, filmed and edited, these scenes get your heart pumping and your palms sweating. There are even moments of humor inserted to lighten up the tension. I amused myself recounting all the different ways the characters said, “Kiss my Arse.” There is also blood and violence but I actually didn’t find it that bad. Or perhaps I’m just desensitized… In the end, Braveheart is one of the finest depictions of medieval warfare.

The storyline is not complex. In essence, a freedom fighter confronts an evil emperor and inspires his people. However, cliché is not always evil. Even knowing the likely plot twists I sat through the whole film smiling, laughing, and cringing. I’ll probably watch it again.

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