#79: Braveheart (1995)

When and how did I watch this?

November 19th, 2016, on Amazon Instant Video.

Had I seen this film already?

Yep. There was a point in the late 90s when it was on every major movie channel just about every day.  My stepfather watched it relentlessly.  Naturally, I would end up watching it as well.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

The whole progression of the movie is locked into my memory, but much of the fine details have since diminished. As a young man, I always enjoyed the bloody battle sequences, and naturally despised Longshanks.

What do I know about it now?

The film is just as I remember, but what I found remarkable is how “full” the battle sequences look.  They’re colorful, loud, and it feels like there are thousands there.  Who knows how many extras are actually present on the set, but the sequences are treacherous looking because of how busy it is.  But it never looks like chaos — everything is well-organized, and Mel Gibson appears a genius for orchestrating this. Of course, my goal here is to be more attentive to everything the film has to offer, and it’s really still spectacular from front to back.  I despise England for their oppressive ways, and the near-indigenous yet tricky Scots led by the almost entirely fictitious Wallace — and their non-historical undertakings — are great fun to watch. What I encountered in the dialogue, though, was disappointing.  Surely the dialects and even the use of multiple languages are impressive, but the general scripting is slightly off.  If indeed this is faux historical, I suppose some liberty can be granted, but Wallace always has everyone’s attention, and his words are always this bombastic presentation.  Never does his speech seem natural.  Rumors fly around that Wallace is ten feet tall and wipes out  hundreds with a single blow, and he casually dismantles the falsities, but then he speaks like he’s reading from the script of legends, or even the Bible.  But really, this is my only hangup.  The movie is spectacular in every way: the bagpipe and string-driven score is moving; the cinematography and sound is clearly a work of perfection.

What are some themes in the film?

Revenge, 13th century Scotland, love, friendship, nobility, loyalty, and freeeedooooom

Did this affect me personally?

This film had an effect on me as an adolescent, but for different reasons.  I choked up watching Murron’s ghost reappear in both scenes, and then the final sequence as a child looks on.  Being married and having kids changes your priorities, and now different aspects seem more important.

Why is this ranked #79?

It’s iconic, and it won Best Picture.  Mel Gibson is perfect both as a director and starring lead actor (he never appears pretentious — it’s a difficult task); the rest of the cast is no slouch.  The score ranks with Jurassic Park and Star Wars in terms of being easily recognized. It moves even further up for having those incredible bloody battle sequences.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She missed most of this one.

Would I watch it again?

Yup, although the possibility of crying is always on the table now.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

Everyone my age has seen it.  A younger generation might benefit from the messages in this film, along with an example of what good movies looked like just before CGI became king.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Oh yes.  It’s an enrapturing epic tale, and it really doesn’t matter how accurately William Wallace is depicted.  Google and Wikipedia have sort of taken out the legs of this film because of its historical inaccuracy, but this doesn’t take away from the level of emotion this movie evokes.  It’s important to watch the faces of all of the characters.  There’s raw emotion here — it feels like none of it is fake.  Perhaps they were swept up into this as well.

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