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Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson, Patrick McGoohan, Sophie Marceau, Brendan Gleeson, Catherine McCormack, Angus Macfadyen
Randall Wallce

Every man dies, not every man really lives.

Mel Gibson stars on both sides of the camera, playing the lead role plus directing and producing this brawling, richly detailed saga of fierce combat, tender love and the will to risk all that's precious: freedom. In an emotionally charged performance, Gibson is William Wallace, a bold Scotsman who used the steel of his blade and the fire of his intellect to rally his countrymen to liberation. Filled with sword-clanging spectacle, Braveheart is a tumultuous tapestry of history come alive, "the most sumptuous and involving historical epic since Lawrence Of Arabia." (Rod Lurie, Los Angeles Magazine)

Box Office:
$72 Million.
Domestic Gross
$75.6 Million.

Rated R for brutal medieval warfare.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Pictures; Best Director; Best Cinematography; Best Makeup; Best Sound Effects Editing.
Nominated for Best Screenplay; Best Film Editing; Best Costume Design; Best Sound; Best Original Score-James Horner.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 177 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 9/18/2009

• Commentary with Director/Actor Mel Gibson
• “Braveheart Timelines”
• “Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion” Documentary
• “Braveheart: A Look Back” Documentary
• “Smithfield: Medieval Killing Fields” Featurette
• “A Writer’s Journey” Featurette
• “Tales of William Wallace” Featurette
• 2 Theatrical Trailers

Score Soundtrack

Search Products:

Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Braveheart [Blu-Ray] (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 23, 2010)

Braveheart provides a semi-mythological telling of a true story, and that seems appropriate as the current interpretation of the film's success enters the realm of mythology. Back when Braveheart hit screens in May 1995, it wasn't a hit with audiences or critics. It did pretty mediocre business and garnered a lot of lukewarm reviews. I don't recall that lots of people disliked the movie, but it certainly didn't generate an immense and/or dedicated audience. The film came and went pretty quickly, and I - like many people - rapidly forgot about it.

That attitude changed in February 1996, when Braveheart received a stunning 10 Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture. Frankly, I was absolutely flabbergasted when this occurred. Granted, 1995 was a moderately slow year for movies, but for an apparent non-entity like Braveheart to take home so many nods absolutely floored me.

That shock multiplied when the ceremony came and Braveheart took home the big prize. Honestly, I still don't know how this happened. Here was a movie that few critics seemed to like and that did modest business, yet it captured the Best Picture - had we entered Bizarro World?

I've become more and more perplexed over the years as the film's legend has grown. Braveheart now has such a strong following that many people seem to believe it was a huge hit. According to IMDB, Braveheart earned about $75 million in the US. That's not exactly a runaway hit; in fact, it's relatively weak for a big-budget summertime production featuring a major star. For comparison, many regarded Mel Gibson's 2000 project, The Patriot, as a disappointment because it "only" grossed about $108 million. Even allowing for slight inflation, that still tops the take of Braveheart.

I don't intend all of these comments to indicate I don't like Braveheart, for I actually think it's a good movie. I just remain baffled by the legend that's grown around it; the film now generates a "buzz" that seems unrelated to its original success, or lack thereof. In any case, the buzz clearly exists, confusing as it may be.

Braveheart offers a somewhat-fictionalized telling of the tale of William Wallace (Gibson), a freedom fighter initially sparked by vengeance who becomes a leader and unifying force in 13th century Scotland. How far astray from the facts does the film go? That I can't say; I know little about the era, but IMDB and other sources detail "numerous historical inaccuracies".

As a history buff, I acknowledge that I dislike these kinds of liberties, but I understand them and don't find them seriously problematic unless they create a serious misrepresentation of the facts, as occurred during JFK. The latter was an entertaining and technically solid film, but I loathed it because the picture so grossly distorted reality to serve its message.

I don't think Braveheart provides anywhere close to that level of problems, so I won't grouse too much about its liberties. I also place Braveheart in a different category than JFK just because so little was known about the period in which Wallace lived. Some liberties had to be taken out of necessity, and unlike the lies told by Oliver Stone, you won't think less of Braveheart when you learn the ways in which it alters facts.

The movie itself offers a rather exciting and rousing tale of daring and adventure in which we see Wallace's crusade to drive the English from Scotland. The story itself is nothing particularly new, as plenty of similar tales have been told over the years. Gibson's telling of it is also not exactly revolutionary, but the execution seems strong, especially during the terrific battle scenes. Gibson makes these tremendously visceral and graphic, though not generally gratuitously bloody. As with Saving Private Ryan, the violence serves the story in that it lets us better appreciate the gravity of the fights; these scenes clearly offer the film's most distinguishing moments.

Outside of the battle segments, Braveheart generally comes across as a good but unexceptional historical drama. I think my main complaint with the film stems from the lack of depth displayed by its characters. With really only one exception - Robert the Bruce (Angus MacFadyen) – virtually all of the roles are quite simplistic; the good guys are true-blue, while the villains are bad to the bone.

Although he's portrayed as a somewhat Christ-like figure at times, we don't find much complexity to Wallace himself. I expected him to display some sort of anxiety and emotion similar to what we saw in The Last Temptation of Christ, but similar agonizing doesn't occur. Such a lack of depth seems especially surprising considering the origins of Wallace's crusade; after all, this was a guy spurred by a lust for revenge, but we see little sign of that spark as the quest for freedom consumes him.

The baddies are similarly one-dimensional. King Edward I (Patrick McGoohan) just needs a black hat and some mustache twirling and he'd fit right in with Snively Whiplash; the character is so absolutely evil that it simply seems unrealistic. In his audio commentary, Gibson even acknowledges that Edward was actually a good king - at least for England - but we observe no positives in the film.

Frankly, Braveheart comes across like a more serious version of 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, especially during its climax. It's a better movie than the Costner effort, but it possesses a lot of the same spirit and tone. In any case, although I find Braveheart to be a flawed movie, it offers some solid entertainment and is ultimately a satisfying and moving experience. It didn't deserve to win the award as Best Picture; although unnominated, Seven and The Usual Suspects were much better films, and of the selected five, I'd have picked Apollo 13. Nonetheless, Braveheart remains a strong piece.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

Braveheart appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While much of the transfer impressed, some inconsistencies occurred.

Sharpness appeared very good most of the time. I noticed a few minor instances of softness, but those failed to distract. The vast majority of the flick offered solid clarity. Moiré effects and jagged edges failed to appear, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Unfortunately, source flaws became a little more problematic. While not dominant, I noticed sporadic examples of small specks.

Colors looked strong, with tones that were lush, rich and realistic. Braveheart wasn't the most colorful movie in the world; anything set in the occasionally gloomy realm of Scotland wouldn’t make sense as a Technicolor extravaganza. Nonetheless, it actually offered a surprising range of hues, mainly manifested in the various costumes. We saw some very attractive reds, blues, yellows, and oranges through the different clothes, and the Blu-ray made them appear terrific.

Black levels seemed deep and they remained appropriately heavy without presenting any excessive thickness that would render nuances invisible. As I already alluded during my discussion of sharpness, shadow detail appeared very clean and smooth, as I witnessed no loss of clarity in any of the many low-light situations; they all come through well. The occasional light softness and the print defects made this a “B”, but it still was satisfying.

I also liked the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Braveheart. The soundfield favored the forward channels in that the majority of the specific information came from those speakers and the three front speakers seemed quite active for most of the film. That domain sounded alive and brisk with all of the movement but never appeared too busy or forced. The surrounds offered a lot of detail as well and they created an immersive experience throughout the movie. Although the rears generally maintained an ambient atmosphere, some good discrete usage occurred as well, and the entire package nicely complemented the on-screen action.

Audio quality appeared positive as well. Dialogue always seemed natural and crisp, with no signs of edginess or any problems with intelligibility. Effects were extremely bright and clear, and they always appeared realistic without any distortion; some of the battle scenes really packed a solid punch. James Horner's score seemed bright and dynamic while it also sounded smooth and melodic. All aspects of the audio presented some fine range, and much of the film treated me to deep and rich bass. Overall, Braveheart sounded very good and just narrowly missed an “A”-level grade.

How did the picture and audio of this Blu-ray compare to those of the Special Edition DVD? I thought the Blu-ray’s lossless audio packed a little bit more punch than the DVD’s Dolby Digital track, but you shouldn’t expect a massive improvement. In terms of visuals, even with the signs of mild softness, the Blu-ray was clearly tighter and better defined than the DVD. Colors and blacks were also more impressive. Unfortunately, I don’t remember source flaws from the DVD, whereas they were obvious here. The Blu-ray’s the superior presentation, nonetheless.

The Blu-ray includes most of the extras from the prior SE and adds some new components. I’ll mark Blu-ray exclusives with special blue print.

On Disc One, we get an audio commentary from director/actor Mel Gibson. He provides a running, screen-specific chat. I really looked forward to this track but unfortunately found it to be disappointing. The biggest problem stems from all the dead air. I realize it’s tough to fill three hours, but Gibson doesn’t even come close; I doubt he speaks for more than half the movie. All of that empty space makes the piece pretty tedious at times.

In addition, some of his comments - particularly during the first half of the film - provide fairly tangential information. Many of his remarks are basic and concern locations and some bland details about the actors; he doesn't offer a lot of facts about his involvement in the film, or his experiences as a fairly new director. After all, Braveheart was only his second directorial effort, and was quite different from his first (The Man Without A Face), so it would have been cool to hear more about his trials and tribulations in that role.

When he speaks, Gibson provides some reasonably interesting details. For example, he mentions some of the tricks he borrowed from other directors with whom he worked, and he gives us strangely compelling information about his use of varying frame rates, something you don't usually hear discussed. Gibson also does a decent job of telling us where the movie veered from historical fact. My father has griped for years about Gibson's casting of himself as Wallace, since the character clearly should have been much younger than the then-38-year-old actor; Mel sets the record straight on his reasons for doing so.

The track definitely picks up its pace when we encounter the battle scenes. Gibson becomes much more animated at those times, and these sequences are when he relates the most compelling information. He really seems interested in the subject, and he offers a fair amount of good information at those times. Gibson also fills in some nice facts during the climactic torture scene as well. Gibson’s commentary provides enough info to merit a listen, but expect a frustrating experience.

Disc One also provides Braveheart Timelines. If you enter this feature, you can follow three chronologies. “Production Timeline” goes along with the development of the film, “Fiction Timeline” tracks various made-up events in the film, and “History Timeline” discusses the actual real-life elements. This feature didn’t run very efficiently on my Blu-ray player, so I found it clunky and difficult to explore. Nonetheless, I liked the concept, and my problems may be related to my specific machine; you should definitely give it a look on yours and hope that you fare better than I did.

With that we head to Disc Two and its components. Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion provides an interactive map that focuses on four Scottish locations. “Stirling” and “Glasgow” just show us text blurbs about their events, but “Bannockburn” and “Falkirk” allow us to “enter the battlefield”.

That means a few different elements. We get more text about the battles, but we also see chess-like computer representations of the conflicts. In addition, we locate a few soundbites from Scottish Arms and Armour author Fergus Cannan. The interface is a little clunky, but “Battlefields” nonetheless offers a moderately cool way to check out the film’s big fights.

Next comes Braveheart: A Look Back. Split into three parts, the program fills a total of one hour, 23 seconds with notes from Gibson, producers Bruce Davey and Stephen McEveety, cinematographer John Toll, editor Steven Rosenblum, production designer Tom Sanders, makeup artist Lois Burwell, screenwriter Randall Wallace and actors Brendan Gleeson, David O’Hara, James Cosmo, Sophie Marceau, and Patrick McGoohan (from 1994). The show looks at visual and production design, sets and locations, cast, characters and performances, editing and cinematography, Gibson’s work as director, makeup, shooting action scenes, and the movie’s reception.

Though it lacks much focus, “Back” compensates with a nice array of details. It covers a good variety of areas and does so with a mix of behind the scenes elements and interviews. I’d like something a little more logical and concise – this one really jumps around a lot – but at least “Back” provides an interesting retrospective.

Smithfield: Medieval Killing Fields goes for 25 minutes, 19 seconds. It features Wallace, historians/authors Liza Picard and Lucy Moore, St. Bartholomew the Great rector Rev. Dr. Martin Dudley, and City of London guide/lecturer Leonard Phillips. “Fields” offers notes about Smithfield, the London location where William Wallace’s execution took place. We find useful details in this compelling little show. Plus, Moore is gorgeous – I could watch her read the phone book!

For the 29-minute and 59-second Tales of William Wallace, we discover comments from Gibson, Davey, Randall Wallace, McEveety, O’Hara, McGoohan, producer Alan Ladd, actors Catherine McCormack and Angus McFadyen, and armorer Simon Atherton. “Tales” attempts to separate fact from myth as it explores what we know about the historical William Wallace. It’s good to learn more about the reality behind the film, and “Tales” provides a reasonably interesting take on its subject.

Next comes a featurette called A Writer’s Journey. The 21-minute and 30-second piece provides remarks from writer Randall Wallace. He discusses his pursuit of family history and how this led him to learn about William Wallace. The writer also chats about the development of the project and his script, research, themes and influences, and various issues that came through the writing process.

Wallace provides a simply terrific look at his work. He offers a mix of fascinating insights such as the fact he didn’t do research until after he wrote the script. He gives us a nice examination of his work and what he wanted to do with the screenplay, and Wallace helps make this a strong featurette.

The set finishes with two trailers. What does it drop from the SE DVD? “Look Back” replaces a separate documentary called “Alba Gu Brath”, and we totally lose some “Archival Interviews” and a photo gallery. I don’t understand why the package fails to include some of the earlier components, but these don’t turn into massive omissions.

Despite my continued bafflement over how Braveheart became an "A"-list title, I acknowledge that it's an entertaining and well-executed movie. The film contains flaws and is far from perfect, but it does a lot right and offers a generally stimulating experience. The Blu-ray provides generally good picture, solid audio, and an interesting complement of supplements. The Blu-ray doesn’t dazzle, but it serves the movie well.

To rate this film visit the original review of BRAVEHEART

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