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In the late 13th century, William Wallace returns to Scotland after living away from his homeland for many years. The king of Scotland has died without an heir and the king of England, a ruthless pagan known as Edward the Longshanks, has seized the throne. Wallace becomes the leader of a ramshackle yet courageous army determined to vanquish the greater English forces. At the historic battle of Stirling, Wallace leads his army to a stunning victory against the English. Knighted by the grateful Scottish nobles, Sir William Wallace extends the conflict south of the border and storms the city of York. King Edward I is astonished by the unexpected turn of events. Unable to rely on his ineffectual son Prince Edward, Longshanks sends his daughter-in-law Princess Isabelle to discuss a truce with Wallace...
For more about Braveheart and the Braveheart Blu-ray release, see the Braveheart Blu-ray Review
Starring: Sophie Marceau, Mel Gibson, Patrick McGoohan, Catherine McCormack, Brendan Gleeson, Brian Cox
Director: Mel Gibson
» See full cast & crew
Braveheart Blu-ray Review
'Braveheart' does Paramount's new 'Sapphire Series' proud.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 1, 2009
Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it.
The best movies are able to engender true meaning and unmistakable emotion in the midst of their stories. It sounds easy enough, but time and again audiences are met with movies with the potential to do something extraordinary but instead play it safe and fall back on special effects, amped-up action, or pretty faces to cover up a hollow center that's devoid of artistic, thematic, moral, or personal significance both for the on-screen characters and, in such cases, the truly detached audience. It's rare when a film comes along that not only features a fundamentally sound and accessible soul, but centers it in a film that captivates with lifelike performances, grisly but purposeful action, and breathtaking technical qualities that serve only to reinforce, rather than define, the film's spiritual core. Such a rare motion picture experience may be found in 1995's Braveheart, a stirring and emotionally satisfying epic that examines the price of freedom and the power of love to conquer all, each proving to be a force to be reckoned with that can reshape a man's heart -- and a nation -- forever.
It's a time of great upheaval. The King of Scotland has died without a male heir to take the throne, and the King of England, Edward the Longshanks, has unceremoniously claimed the throne for himself. Fighting has broken out both against the Crown and amongst the Scots, leading to the death of young William Wallace's father. Years pass but nothing changes. William (Mel Gibson, The Patriot) has grown into a strapping, hardworking, and honest young man that eschews the very notion of becoming involved in local and national politics, instead longing only to make a life for himself and, he hopes, a future family with his childhood sweetheart, Murron MacClannough (Catherine McCormack, 28 Weeks Later). They marry in secret out of fear of the Crown's "primae noctis" decree. Soon thereafter, an overzealous English soldier attempts to rape Murron, but she's saved by Wallace's timely intervention. Nevertheless, Murron is unceremoniously murdered as an example to the people and a warning against further interference with Crown business. Wallace and the townsfolk retaliate, beginning a movement for Scottish independence that makes Wallace a folk hero to the people, and he proves to be a cunning leader on the battlefield. Time and again Wallace rejects bribes from the Crown in exchange for "peace" as his movement gains more traction and even the attention of Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau), future Queen of England.
Though Braveheart is many things -- an epic adventure, an historical account, a bloody Action picture, and a moving Drama -- one aspect stands above the rest and completely defines the film and its every element: love. Braveheart is a love story through and through; that strongest, most important, and -- when true -- most unwavering of all human emotions shapes the film's very existence, evident both in the characters and through the work that went into crafting the picture. Love is central to the story; it defines Wallace's adult life, shapes his outlook on the world, and when that love is taken away from him, he lets loose with a vengeance that equals the pain that -- in but a fleeting moment of time -- has come to define his life. His love for Murron never fades, but it is soon equaled by love of country and -- far more importantly -- love for and want of freedom. Wallace leads a crusade that's rooted in personal pain but becomes a rallying cry for all of Scotland. Asking for no more and no less than to be left to his own accord, to live without the foolish rules and regulations that define life under the Crown, and free the people of Scotland from a future that promises to somehow, someday, be as painful as his present, Wallace forms a personal belief system rooted in a yearning for that which he will never have.
Braveheart proves to be one of the most fascinating films in cinema history thanks to its unique juxtaposition of elements that contrasts beauty with brutality. For as savage as the film may be, it's just as, if not more so, serene and soothing. Braveheart spends little time developing the love story between Wallace and Murron, but it's handled with a tenderness befitting such a simple and honest lifelong romance that cannot help but touch the heart, particularly when contrasted both with the arranged marriage between Longhsanks' heir and his French bride and the carnage to follow. Besides the love story, Braveheart captures the scene-chewing Scottish landscape to perfection; the rolling green slopes of the countryside alone make the film worth watching, and even in the midst of battle, that beauty never fades. Its incessant serenity stands as a monument to the beauty of the world and the importance of calling it "home," a land that deserves only peace, happiness, and freedom. Lastly, Director Mel Gibson has fashioned Braveheart with a technical wherewithal that makes the film a true work of art from a purely visual perspective. Against the harsh backdrop of medieval warfare lies an eternal testament to the breathtaking power of motion pictures; Braveheart stuns in the power of its direction, cinematography, and editing. Each shot appears perfectly framed, taking full advantage of the scope presentation that lends to the film an epic feel that never once sacrifices the integrity of the story in exchange for artistic merit. Story and art become one in Braveheart, each fully complimenting the other and the resultant picture is nothing short of a masterpiece of filmmaking that's sure to remain a standard-bearer for the medium for decades to come.
Deeper thematic elements and technical prowess aside, Braveheart makes for a superb Action picture that hits all the right notes. The battle scenes are framed against a meaningful backdrop and populated by heroes and villains that make them all the more easily digested in the classic good-versus-evil setup. In fact, Braveheart does a fantastic job of painting its villains as absolutely deplorable individuals, making it all the more easy cheer on the bloodletting in the first and second acts and physically and emotionally mourn during the devastating finale. It's exactly the reaction Mel Gibson wishes to get out of his audiences, and while the movie's thematic tone makes that possible, he reinforces it visually. Though killed on-screen, audiences do not see the blood spilled when Murron's throat is cut. On the other hand, when Wallace exacts revenge on her murderer by killing him in the same fashion, the camera makes sure to capture the wound and the resultant spilled blood center-frame. Likewise, the film's finale shies away from displaying its death scene; it doesn't obscure in the least that it actually happens, but it withholds the visual evidence, thereby increasing the dramatic elements and solidifying the idea behind the film's deliberate schism between murder and justified revenge and want of freedom at any price.
Braveheart Blu-ray, Video Quality
Braveheart arrives on Blu-ray with a wonderful 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer. First, the two minor complaints. Braveheart's transfer features some dirt and white speckles that remain throughout, but never appear to such a degree so as to become a distraction. Second, Braveheart occasionally looks a bit soft and colors sometimes appear a tad bit bland, but far more often than not it takes on a superb film-like appearance that captures the essence of what Blu-ray is all about. As noted, Braveheart looks wonderful on the whole, and while it might not be the sharpest, most vibrant, eye-popping transfer out there, it looks wonderfully cinematic, seemingly straight out of the theater and often brilliant in its ability to convey the look of film for home viewing. The disc sports a subtle layer of grain that's visible throughout but never dominates the frame. Detail appears as appreciably high throughout; frayed garments look wonderful, and several loose threads stand out nicely. Likewise, long, unkempt hair blows in the wind with solid texture and it seems as if each strand is not only visible but able to be differentiated one from another. Chain mail armor also impresses; every link and seam appears exquisitely rendered, and the English soldiers' garb looks appropriately filthy and worn. Background details in the lush Scottish landscape -- tall green grass and clumps of trees -- appear as well-defined and nicely represented. Though the film features a fairly limited color palette, with many gray skies and plain-colored clothes, brighter hues stand out nicely but don't appear overblown or unnatural even up against the barrage of listless hues. The green fields sparkle, the red and orange English soldiers' uniforms stand out nicely, and Wallace's blue warpaint jumps straight off the screen. Black levels are consistently good, as are flesh tones. Braveheart makes for a handsome transfer, a real treasure that might not be the sharpest or most colorful Blu-ray out there, but for what it is and what it needs to be, it looks marvelous.
Braveheart Blu-ray, Audio Quality
This Blu-ray release of Braveheart frees the film from the captivity of compressed audio and allows the soundtrack to shine with a stupendous Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Perhaps the track's most defining attribute comes not from the action scenes but rather in the film's quieter moments. There's nary a moment in the film that audiences are not drawn into to story thanks to a fantastic sense of atmosphere. Subtle breezes blow throughout the soundstage, birds chirp ever so slightly in every corner of the listening area, thunder rolls in the distance, and horses gallop to and fro. Each of these -- and plenty more -- bring the track alive throughout. Of course, the track positively booms during the action sequences. As armies assemble, horses fall in line, and restless infantrymen clank about as they prepare to die on the fields of Scotland, audiences become immersed in a full-fledged attack of sonic goodness. The soundstage rumbles as horses charge the Scottish line, and the clanking of metal-on-metal, the shouts of the victors, and the cries of the wounded all play together but at the same time distinctly for a unique and enthralling listening experience. James Horner's (Glory) glorious score comes alive as never before, with the highs of the bagpipes and the foreboding lows setting the tone for the film. Rounded out by superb dialogue reproduction, Braveheart sounds just as good as it looks on Blu-ray.
Braveheart Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Braveheart makes its eagerly-anticipated Blu-ray debut as a full-fledged two-disc special edition. The bulk of the extras are to be found on the second disc, but the first offers up two supplements, the first a commentary track with Actor/Director Mel Gibson. The Oscar winner delivers a balanced commentary that's informative but tonally reserved. Gibson's delivery is to-the-point and he doesn't try to fill in every second of the track with nonsensical observations. What he has to say about the production -- even when recounting the mostly standard-fare sort of comments -- are worthwhile and interesting. Fans should definitely give this one a listen. Also on disc one is Braveheart Timelines, a collection of three independent items that chronicle the factual history of William Wallace, the fictionalized account of his actions as seen in the film, and the Braveheart production timeline that examines the process of bringing the film to the big screen. Users may scan through each timeline and read short blurbs about each segment and learn more information by choosing a section of the timeline and pressing "enter" on the remote control. This reveals a fuller written description of the event, allows viewers to jump directly to the next piece of the timeline, and, on occasion, examine related topics from the other timelines.
Disc two begins with Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion, an interactive map that allows viewers to learn more about four major developments during the career of William Wallace: the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, William Wallace's capture in 1305, and the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Viewers may learn more about the battles of Falkirk and Bannockburn via a computer-generated recreation that shows an animated progression of the battles, accompanied by descriptive narration. Braveheart: A Look Back (1080i, 1:00:23) is a three-part retrospective that aims to capture what it is that made Braveheart a success. Part one, A Company of Equals (20:48) features behind-the-scenes stills and clips from the film, all intertwined with interview pieces with cast and crew that recount the construction of the story, the purpose behind telling it, the scope of the production, the challenge of putting it all together, the difficulties of the shoot, and much more. Part two, The Sound of Laughter (19:16) focuses primarily on Mel Gibson's prowess as a director but also recounts some lighthearted moments from the set, looks at Mel Gibson's makeup, and more. The third part, The Measure of a Film (20:18) examines the process of editing the film together, shooting the battle scenes, the film's emotional core, its staying power, and more.
Smithfield: Medieval Killing Fields (1080i, 25:19) recounts the history of the then-infamous bloody town on the outskirts of London and takes a glimpse at what's there today. Tales of William Wallace (480p, 29:59) is a piece presented in a History Channel style that takes audiences behind the legend of the man and aims to sort out fact from fiction. Next up is A Writer's Journey (480p, 21:30), a piece featuring writer Randall Wallace recounting his introduction to the story of William Wallace, his writing style and the process of penning the script, his collaboration with Mel Gibson, the film's themes, and more. Rounding out this rather impressive collection of bonus materials is a pair of Braveheart theatrical trailers (1080p, 1:41 & 2:54).
Braveheart Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The winner of five Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director and boasting an Oscar-nominated score from the legendary James Horner that's at once traditional, bold, and tender, Braveheart is a bona-fide classic that may not be the most historically accurate picture but is certainly one of cinema's most fundamentally sound from the top down. With pitch-perfect pacing, fabulous acting, well-written characters, exciting action sequences, and an unwavering emotional core, Braveheart may be found on a rather short list amongst the best of the best films in cinema history. Parmaount's Blu-ray and flagship "Sapphire Series" release is, in a word, superb. Boasting a high quality film-like 1080p transfer, a wondrous lossless soundtrack, and plenty of extras, Braveheart is one of the year's must-own titles and earns my highest recommendation.
Braveheart: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with Braveheart (2 bundles)
Braveheart Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - September 1st - September 1, 2009
There is a bit of controversy with one of today's releases, so I'm just going to get this out of the way as quickly as possible to avoid any further distraction. While not a horrible presentation, the Blu-ray release of ‘Gladiator' does not live up to the promise ...
• US Editions of Braveheart, Gladiator Region-locked - August 19, 2009
We don't usually do news posts to report exclusively about the region encoding of a BD, but this case the exceptional situation warrants it. The retailer Movietyme has confirmed in its blog that the first two Blu-ray titles in Paramount's Sapphire Series, 'Braveheart' ...
• Gladiator, Braveheart, Gump Get Blu-ray Dates and Details - June 22, 2009
After weeks of intense speculation, Paramount Home Entertainment has finally disclosed the Blu-ray release dates and edition details for three of its most-awaited catalog releases, all Best Picture Oscar winners: 'Gladiator' and 'Braveheart' will both street on ...
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