Film Talk: Looking Back – Fighting for freedom with Braveheart
You may have been criticised for your historical inaccuracies, dear flick, but “I love ya – always have”...
Directed by, co-produced by and also starring Mel Gibson, 1995’s Braveheart is a medieval movie treat of no mistaking.
The film depicts the life of William Wallace (Gibson), a Scottish warrior who leads his countrymen in the First War of Scottish Independence against English king, Edward Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan).
Also starring Sophie Marceau, Catherine McCormack, Brendan Gleeson, James Cosmo, Angus Macfadyen and David O’Hara, the flick brings together a talented cast for an epic tale that remains one of my all-time favourite ‘go-to’ choices. Development on the film initially started at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer when producer Alan Ladd Jr picked up the project. But when MGM was going through new management, Ladd left the studio and took the film with him.
Though having declined in the first instance, Gibson eventually decided to direct the film, as well as star as Wallace.
The flick was filmed in Scotland and Ireland in 1994 with a of budget around $65–70 million.
But would it delight or disappoint? Only time would tell...
His father and brother were killed when he was only a boy, and now William Wallace has returned to his home of Scotland with the hope of living a simple life and starting a family.
Falling in love with his childhood friend Murron (McCormack), William marries her in secret to avoid having to share her with an English lord to whom the wicked King Edward has bequeathed conjugal rights to every new Scottish bride in the area.
Their happiness is cut short when Murron is attacked and then publicly executed by the English, galvanising Wallace into leading an uprising that could change the course of his people’s fate, and give them a country of their own.
Along for the ride are Wallace’s childhood best friend Hamish (Gleeson), his staunch and grizzled father (Cosmo), and silver-tongued Irishman Stephen (David O’Hara), all of whom will fight alongside Wallace as his exploits enrage Longshanks and gain the attention of contender for the Scottish crown, Robert the Bruce (Angus Macfadyen).
With the Bruce by his side, could Wallace achieve the impossible, and once and for all bring freedom to the people of Scotland?..
Released in May 1995, Braveheart received positive reviews from critics, who praised the film’s performances, directing, production values, battle sequences, and musical score.
Criticism was however directed at its historical inaccuracies, particularly regarding Wallace’s title, love interests, and his attire.
A box office success, the film grossed $75.6 million in the US and grossed $210.4 million worldwide. At the 68th Academy Awards, the film was nominated for 10 Oscars and won five – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, and Best Sound Effects Editing.
Taken for what it is (an entertaining movie, not a historian’s PhD thesis) Braveheart is a fantastic cinematic treat that takes you through almost the full emotional spectrum and never fails to hit home no matter how many times you’ve seen it before.
With an array of superb performances, particularly from Cosmo, Gleeson and O’Hara, Braveheart has weathered very well over the last 28 years, and stands up well against more modern historical epics such as 2005’s Kingdom Of Heaven and 2019’s The King.
Under Gibson’s direction success was achieved, and with a compelling plot, a store of fantastic action sequences, plenty of romance and perfect touches of humour, Braveheart offers something for all of us, and much more than ‘something’ for most.
A great and timeless story told with feeling, Braveheart is a classic if ever there was one.