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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.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 177 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 12/18/2007

• Commentary with Director/Actor Mel Gibson
DVD Two:
• “A Writer’s Journey” Featurette
• “Alba gu Brath! The Making of Braveheart” Featurette
• “Tales of William Wallace” Featurette
• Archival Interviews
• Photo Montage
• 2 Theatrical Trailers

Score soundtrack

Search Products:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Braveheart: Special Collector's Edition (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 12, 2007)

Ever since DVD debuted as a home video format in early 1997, some movies were high on many peoples' "want lists". Some of these were very obvious, like Star Wars or The Godfather, but some made less sense, at least to me. Braveheart fell into the latter category.

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 especially immense or dedicated audience. The film came and went pretty quickly, and I - like many people - rapidly forgot 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 awards were announced 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 easily 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's generated a "buzz" that seems unrelated to its original success, or lack thereof. In any case, the buzz clearly existed, as many people were darned excited to see Braveheart on DVD. I can't say I was ever especially worked up about the prospect, but I looked forward to it and did enjoy the film.

Braveheart offers a somewhat-fictionalized telling of the tale of William Wallace (Gibson, who also directed the movie), 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 distorts 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 the 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 how 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. He 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 clear-cut; 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. I expected 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 all.

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 all-consumingly 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 no positives are related in the film.

Frankly, Braveheart reminds me a lot of a more serious version of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, especially during the climax. It's a better movie than that one, but 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 - but it's a strong piece nonetheless.

The DVD Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

Braveheart appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. From start to finish, the transfer looked great.

Sharpness appeared virtually immaculate throughout the film. Even during the widest shots, the picture remained very crisp and clear, without the slightest hints of softness. This detail was maintained in the movie's many low-light situations as well; although lots of films become hazy in dim circumstances, that didn't occur here. Moiré effects and jagged edges failed to appear, and I noticed no edge enhancement. In addition, source flaws remained absent in this fresh, clear presentation.

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 DVD made them appear terrific.

Black levels seemed very 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 wonderfully. If any problems manifested themselves here, I didn’t notice them. Instead, I thought Braveheart boasted a top-notch transfer.

I also liked the Dolby Digital 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 Braveheart Special Collector’s Edition compare to those of the original 2000 DVD? I thought both featured identical audio, but the new disc provided visual improvements. The biggest step up came from the cleanliness of the 2007 DVD, as it lacked the marks and flaws of its predecessor. It was also a little sharper than the 2000 release, but the absence of source concerns was the main reason the old disc’s “B-“ jumped to an “A” here. The 2007 disc definitely provided a substantially more attractive visual presentation.

In addition, this two-disc SCE added new supplements. I’ll note additions with an asterisk. If you fail to see a star, that means the component already appeared on the 2000 DVD.

On DVD 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.

With that we head to DVD Two and a featurette called *A Writer’s Journey. The 21-minute and 29-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.

Next comes *Alba Gu Brath! The Making of Braveheart. Split into three parts, the program fills a total of 49 minutes, 59 seconds with notes from Gibson, Wallace, producers Bruce Davey and Alan Ladd, Jr., unit manager Kevin de la Noy, cinematographer John Toll, and 2nd unit director/stunt coordinator Mic Rodgers. The show looks at the project’s development from the Gibson/studio point of view, Gibson’s work as director and the challenges of doing “double duty” as an actor, editing and music, sets and locations, logistics, stunts and action scenes, and various other production concerns.

Since it leaves out a number of subjects like cast and performances, “Brath” doesn’t provide a broad examination of the film’s creation. However, it does very well within its scope. Gibson’s memories of the pressures through which he suffered offer the most compelling elements, and we also find a lot of great looks at the editing. The various elements combine to make this a compelling and more frank than usual program.

For the 29-minute and 57-second *Tales of William Wallace, we discover comments from Ladd, Gibson, Davey, Wallace, actors Catherine McCormack, Angus McFadyen, David O’Hara and Patrick MacGoohan, armorer Simon Atherton and executive producer Stephen McEveety. “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.

*Archival Interviews last a total of 14 minutes, 34 seconds. We hear from a mix of actors: James Robinson (0:47), Catherine McCormack (1:37), Brendan Gleeson and James Cosmo (2:31), David O’Hara (1:40), Angus MacFadyen (2:18), Patrick McGoohan and Peter Hanly (3:24) and Sophie Marceau (2:16). The actors talk a little about the film, their characters, performance issues and a few related subjects. Do any of them tell us information of substance? Not much. A few decent character insights occur, but mostly the participants just offer bland recaps of the story and their roles.

In addition to two theatrical trailers, we discover a *Photo Montage. It runs six minutes, 28 seconds and displays a mix of images. We see shots from the film, publicity stills, and glimpses of the set. It ends up as a decent collection, though I’m not wild about the format; I prefer the standard frame-by-frame still gallery.

Note that the SCE drops one element from the 2000 DVD: a promotional featurette called "Mel Gibson's Braveheart: A Filmmaker's Passion". While that program was surprisingly good, virtually all of its information appears in this set’s new components. I still think the DVD should’ve included “Passion” for archival purposes, but in terms of content, it doesn’t go missed.

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 DVD provides simply terrific picture and sound plus a few nice extras.

It terms of recommendations, I’d advise all fans to snag this Special Collector’s Edition. If you don’t have the old one, this set is definitely the one to get, especially since both retail for the same price. As for fans who possess the original disc, they should snag the SCE as well. It presents notably improved picture along with some good new extras, all for a reasonable price. Paramount have given Braveheart very good treatment here.

To rate this film visit the original review of BRAVEHEART

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