Braveheart (1995)

Braveheart (1995) – Every time a new Roman Polanski movie opens it typically get lavished with praise from film critics but there is always an outcry of “how can you celebrate the work of a convicted child rapist?” The same happens for Victor Salva. Even for film-makers like Woody Allen and Bryan Singer, who have been accused but never proven to be awful people (and the cases are very uncertain in both instances), the same question gets raised: “Can you support the art of someone who is an awful person?” Now those are all the extreme examples. Mel Gibson has never been accused of doing anything with kids. He has, however, come to be pretty universally reviled in the past few years due to a variety of racist and all-around unpleasant statements. It’s hurt his acting career significantly (though he still landed villain parts in over-the-top action flicks Machete Kills and The Expendables 3). He also hasn’t directed a film since 2006’s Apocalypto. Braveheart is the film that Mel Gibson will most likely be remembered for (as both an actor and director), so it was time to revisit it and see if it was enough to wipe away the memories of vitriolic drunk racism…

William Wallace is only a child (James Robinson) when his father and brother (Sean Lawlor and Sandy Nelson) are killed by emissaries of King Edward “the Longshanks” of England (Patrick McGoohan). His uncle Argyle (Brian Cox) comes to take young William away and raise him. As many years pass, Longshanks marries his son Prince Edward (Peter Hanly) to a French Princess Isabella (Sophie Marceau) to strengthen the two countries’ alliance. Isabella remains unhappy as she finds her husband to be obviously gay and her new father-in-law to be a cruel tyrant with possibly lecherous designs on her. The now-adult William (played by Gibson) returns to the Scottish village of his childhood, reunited with childhood friend Hamish Campbell (Brendan Gleeson) and his childhood sweetheart Murron MacClannough (Catherine McCormack), who he intends to make his wife. It is a turbulent time for Scotland as there is talk of rebellion against England and noble Robert the Bruce (Angus Macfadyen) tries to secure his claim to the Scottish throne. William wants no part of rebellion or revolution. He merely wants to live in peace with Murron. But English oppression has a way of ruining peaceful plans…

Growing up, Braveheart was my absolute favorite movie. There was romance, scenes of graphic wartime violence, humor, Scottish accents… everything you could want from a movie. I hadn’t actually seen the whole thing since Gibson’s unfortunate phone call to his ex-wife was publicized. Didn’t make much of a difference really. Whatever awful thing he’s done in real life, Mel Gibson is a damn fine film-maker (or was, anyway). Now Braveheart is a film rife with historical inaccuracy. William Wallace was a noble, not a farmer (amusing given his contempt for the nobles within the film). By many accounts of his attacks, civilians and women and children were not spared by his army. The film is definitely better without that little tidbit. But historical accuracy be damned, it’s about making a great movie and Gibson did that. The cast is pretty great across the board. In addition to those mentioned above, there’s gravelly-voiced Scottish character actor David O’Hara (playing an Irishman… while the Irish Gleeson plays a Scot). James Cosmo is great in the role of tough old bastard Campbell (Hamish’s father, never given a first name). Recognizable faces Tommy Flanagan and Peter Mullan are also given meaty small roles. Watching Gibson in this reminded me that, oh yeah, dude was a full-on movie star. He had charisma and talent. Kind of a shame to see him piss that all away but from what little I know about his family life, perhaps inevitable. Braveheart is a great movie, the kind of large-scale epic that people can enjoy for generations. One idiot’s drunken rambling shouldn’t ruin that.

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