As a child I always wondered about the "Golden Age Of Cinema" that I saw idolised in television programs. Big studio epics seemed like something that I have missed out on. Of course I know I can still see them, but never will I be able to see "Ben-Hur" on its opening night in my local. Unless I build a time machine and go on some wacky adventure with my trusted side kicks..... but I just never apply myself. So here I am, stuck in the latter part of the 1990s where cinema is ruled by "suprising/shock" indie films and big budget Hollywood blockbusters that involve lizards or comets or the death of the human race, something catastrophic like that, and I'm growing a little tired of it. I find myself scanning the television guide regularly to see that maybe just maybe an old Hollywood epic would be on the 17", that makes me happy these days. And so with the realise of Braveheart a butterfly fluttered into my stomach and had a party. I knew this would be good, that little butterfly has got great taste in cinema.
Cinema success are not only success just because they are good films, ooooohhhhh no. Anyone who believes that can just stop reading right now. Film success are success because of TIMING. A film that is realised just at the right time and that SEEMS to say something new to the audience usually makes a hit, Oh...... and it has to be a good film. And Braveheart does just this. Its not a big budget sci-fi or a gritty indie film, its a film of the old era essentially. A Hollywood star in front and behind the camera, based on a true historical event, a few weak sub-plots, and big, I say BIG battle scenes. A "cinema" film that you just know will loose most of it's impact when taken away from the cinema screen. Braveheart makes you wants to grow your hair long, wear tartan skirts and walk around with no underwear.....ooooorrrr, not.
Braveheart is great fun. Appealing to the inner-child . Taking me back to the days when I made swords from tree branches and tried to raid my neighbours garden, of course never did people die or get maimed. And here in Braveheart people die and die brutally.
The story of Braveheart is a simple one. Scotland is left without an heir. England have claimed the throne and the Scottish don't like this. Wallace father and brother are killed during a Scottish rising when he is a child, his uncle takes him under his wing and educates Wallace. When Wallace returns to his home he falls in love with a local girl and gets murdered by the English. And the violence begins here.
Really where Braveheart triumphs is during the battle scenes and they are something else. With usual battle scenes, heads, arms and legs get chopped left right and centre, blood splatters on the camera. But the thing about these battle scenes is not only do you get a sense of the adrenaline rushed violence that may have occurred on the battle field, you also get to understand the overall clever strategies that won and lost the battles for Wallace. This makes Bravehearts' action scenes some of the best to be seen.
There is very little known about the real William Wallace, in fact all I believe that is documented about him are just a few poems. And as a result there is an amazing amount of "Hollywood" is in this film. It is so very obvious that there is more Mel Gibson than 13th century Scottish warrior in the character of William Wallace. But that really adds to the entertainment of the film than take away, unless you detest Gibson. Wallace is a wise cracking hero, with some funny and loyal side kicks, a nasty bad guy and a lovely princess. When the film is away from the battle scenes, it seems to follow the "Hollywood Epic Handbook For Entertaining The Audience". And I accepted it. Why shouldn't I, its just this sort of film I have been looking for. And I loved it.
Nothing bad can said about the cast. In fact when coming out of this film the first time I was convinced that Mel Gibson should at least get an Best Actor Nomination at the Oscars, but they have never listened to me before so why should they now. Gleeson, Marceau, Patrick McGoohan (King Edward 1) and Peter Henly (Prince Edward) are all excellent, cast perfectly.
And as I have said so many times before a film like this needs a really nasty bad guy. Its simple cinema stuff but it gets over looked every now and again. In fact a ruthless bad guy is the key stone for an adventure film of this type and Longshanks (Parick McGoohan) fits the bill perfectly. I just love the way he says "The trouble with Scotland is that it is full of Scots". BBBBOOOO, HIIISSSSSS. We need this guy to be as bad as possible because Wallace was doing some pretty bad things of his own, and the audience needs to think that with each severed arm or scalped head is a direct blow at Longshanks. Never do the audience believe that these are just the actions of barbarians who kill and slaughter for some twisted pleasure and a lost cause...... Ooh, no. They are fighting against the oppression of the Scottish people and for a free Scotland.
In the middle of this whole thing is Wallaces' affair with the Queen. The amazingly picturesque Marceau is married to Longshanks' son, Prince Edward (a right git) who is a "little light on the loafers" (what a waste). The affair gets a look in between battle scenes and just seems to be filling time. I mean only fairytales would have someone fall in love because of "the way he looked at me". COME ON.... There are only sub-plots anyway.
I have to admit Gibson certainly shows that he can handle the job of director. This is his second turn behind the camera, his first being "The Man With No Face" which I thought was decent first attempt. This time he controls the action and story with skill. But I always wondered if he would direct a film without starring in it, that would an interesting project.
Overall. Braveheart is a truly exhilarating film experience that can be enjoyed in the cinema or DVD or Laserdisc with the best home entertainment centre you can find. At that first battle turn the BASE way up and feel the Calvary charge right up the seat of your pants, and let the excellent emotion filled sound track fill your senses.
FREEDOM.... where is my kilt Ma