Top 100 Movie Review: No. 058 – Braveheart (1995)

Ranked 058 on the IMDb Top 100 Movie List (as at May 2017). Watched movie during the month of April 2020.

Cast: Mel Gibson (William Wallace), Sophie Marceau (Princess Isabella), Angus Macfadyen (Robert the Bruce), Patrick McGoohan (King Edward “Longshanks”), Catherine McCormack (Murron MacClannough), Brendan Gleeson (Hamish), Peter Hanly (Prince Edward), David O’Hara (Stephen of Ireland)
Director:  Mel Gibson
My rating: 8.5 / 10

In 1280, King Edward “Longshanks” (Patrick McGoohan ) invades and conquers Scotland following the death of Alexander III of Scotland, who left no heir to the throne. Young William Wallace witnesses Longshanks’ treachery when Scotish nobles are killed at a peace meeting and later his father and brother are killed.  Wallce is then raised by his uncle Argyle, who educates him and eventually takes him on a tour of Europe.

Years later Longshanks gets his gay son Princes Edwards (Peter Hanly ) to Princess Isabella (Sophie Marceau), the daughter of his French rival.  Addressing the Scottish problem Longshanks calls a war council with his son sending Isabella in his place which irritates Longshanks.  Longshanks grants his English noblemen land and privileges in Scotland, including Prima Nocte the right to have sex relationships on the night any commoner is married on the nobleman’s estate.

A grown Wallace (Mel Gibson ) returns to Scotland and witness this right being carried out on a local woman who agrees to save her newly wed husband from being killed.  Wallace has returned with the intent of marrying his childhood friend Murron MacClannough (Catherine McCormack) which after a short courtship they do in secret to avoid Prima Nocte.

One day Murron is almost raped by English soldiers with Wallace coming to her rescue, they split up to escape Murron is captured and then publicly executed. In retribution, Wallace leads his clan to slaughter the English garrison in his hometown.  This rallies other nearby clans who have had enough of English occupation and they begin a campaign against the English.

Longshanks orders his son Prince Edward to stop Wallace by any means necessary. Wallace’s legend spreads as the rebellion continues, hundreds of Scots join him but the Scottish nobles do not. Wallace leads his army to victory at the Battle of Stirling by tricking the local nobles to join him and tricking the English with unusual tactics.

Eventually Wallace invades northern England destroying the city of York, killing Longshanks’ nephew and sending his severed head to the king. Wallace seeks the assistance of Robert the Bruce, the son of nobleman Robert the Elder and a contender for the Scottish crown. Robert’s father is only interested in securing the throne for his son by submitting to the English. Worried by the threat of the rebellion, Longshanks sends his son’s wife Isabella of France to try to negotiate with Wallace as a distraction for the landing of another invasion force in Scotland.

After meeting him in person, Isabella becomes enamoured of Wallace and easily believes stories of Longshanks’ cruelty. Having no affection for her husband Isabella warns Wallace of the coming invasion, and Wallace returns to Scotland and implores the Scottish nobility to take immediate action to counter the threat and take back the country, asking Robert the Bruce to lead to which he agrees.

Leading the English army himself, Longshanks confronts the Scots at Falkirk. There, noblemen Mornay and Lochlan turn their backs on Wallace after being bribed by the king, resulting in the death of Wallace good friend Hamish’s father.  Wallace is then further betrayed when he discovers Robert the Bruce was fighting alongside Longshanks, although Robert does help Wallace get away. After the battle, Robert seeing the damage he helped do to his countrymen, reprimands his father and vows not to be on the wrong side again.

Wallace kills Lochlan and Mornay for their betrayal, and wages a guerrilla war against the English for the next few years, assisted by Isabella, with whom he eventually has an affair. In 1305, Robert sets up a meeting with Wallace in Edinburgh to join forces, but Robert’s father has conspired with other nobles to capture and hand over Wallace to the English. Learning of his treachery, Robert disowns his father who states Robert now knows how to hate and is ready to be a King. 

In London, Wallace is brought before an English magistrate, tried for high treason, and condemned to public torture and beheading. Isabella exacts revenge on the now terminally ill Longshanks by telling him that his bloodline will be destroyed upon his death as she is now pregnant with Wallace’s child. Whilst being hanged, drawn and quartered, Wallace refuses to submit to the king. The watching crowd, deeply moved by the Scotsman’s valour, begin crying for mercy. The magistrate offers him one final chance, asking him only to utter the word, “Mercy”, and be granted a quick death. Wallace instead shouts, “Freedom!”, and the judge orders his death. As Wallace’s cry rings through the square, Longshanks hears it just before dying. Moments before being decapitated, Wallace sees a vision of Murron in the crowd, smiling at him.

In 1314, Robert, now Scotland’s king, leads a Scottish army before a ceremonial line of English troops on the fields of Bannockburn, where he is to formally accept his Crown under English rule. As he begins to ride toward the English, he stops and invokes Wallace’s memory, imploring his men to fight with Robert as they did with Wallace. Hamish throws Wallace’s sword point-down in front of the English army, and he the Scots chant Wallace’s name. Robert then leads his army into battle against the stunned English, winning the Scots their freedom.

What’s to Like
The landscapes, the music, the speeches.

What’s not to Like
This is not historically accurate movie but many will feel it is after watching it as important Scottish and English individuals who existed are used.

I loved this movie the first time I saw it and my blood was pumping as they went into each battle especially the battle of Stirling with the die free now then live in fear speech.  In was only many years later I realised just how much was made up for the movie and a big part of me finishes it had been true.  Still some historical facts are correct and I love European history as monarchs fight each other for land and power and change alliances.

This is Mel Gibson at his absolute best.  While now he is a bit of a joke especially to those who did see his best work from mid 80s to late 90s he had a lot of talent and could really draw you into his characters and as a result the movie.    

A really enjoyable movie.  Highly recommend.      

Academy Awards

  • Best Picture – winner
  • Best Director (Mel Gibson) – winner
  • Best Cinematography (John Toll) – winner
  • Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing – winner
  • Best Makeup – winner
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Randall Wallace) – nominee
  • Best Costume Design – nominee
  • Best Sound – nominee
  • Best Film Editing – nominee

About Nathan

A World traveller who has so far experienced 71 countries (76 by June 2023) in this amazing world.
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