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BRAVEHEART

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Catherine McCormack
Director: Mel Gibson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 177 Minutes
Release Date: December 18, 2007

ďWhere are you going?Ē

ďIím going to pick a fight.Ē

Film ****

Youíve got to hand it to Mel Gibson, the filmmaker. The guy knows how to craft a tremendous epic motion picture. The mass public knows that now, following Gibsonís recent directorial efforts, the remarkable The Passion of the Christ and the fantastically violent saga Apocalypto. But when Braveheart came out in 1995, few had any idea of just how extraordinary a director Gibson was.

The surprise of Gibsonís filmmaking power was rewarded not only by the moviegoing public, as the film became an impressive box office hit, but by Oscar voters as well. Gibson won Best Director and his film took home the top prize as Best Picture of that year. The victory was reminiscent of Kevin Costnerís Oscar glory just 5 years earlier with his epic film, Dances With Wolves.

And the filmís Oscar achievements were more than well deserved. At the time of its release, Braveheart represented epic filmmaking on a grand scale seldom seen in the movies. Itís breathtaking scenery, bold storytelling and rousing action helped to make it one of the most astounding movie epics since Lawrence of Arabia.

The focus of the story is that of William Wallace (Gibson), who went from being a simple Scotsman to that of legend. Driven by a tragic event, Wallace gathers an army of his fellow countrymen to rebel against the oppressive British forces led by King Edward the Long Shanks (Patrick McGoohan). Wallaceís goal was for Scotland to gain independence from British rule.

The tragedy that triggers the beast inside Wallace was the loss of his first true love, Murron (Catherine McCormack). As the story begins, the two engage in a secret love affair, which then leads to a secret marriage. Not long after that, she is brutally killed when she doesnít give into lustful demands from British soldiers.

Of course, the heart of the movie is the movieís unforgettable battle sequences. Gibson boldly accomplishes in leading the viewer straight into the hell of battle. I remember seeing the film in the theater and just being stunned by how up close the killings were shown. Up until then, I had never seen more graphic battle scenes in a movie set in that time period.

And I also remember hearing all the rumors about the intense production of the film. Reports were made that many of the extras, while filming the battle scenes, actually went into near-fighting mode. And as ferocious as the scenes turn out, I donít have difficulty believing that rumor.

As an actor, this is one of Gibsonís strongest moments to date. At first, I didnít buy the idea of a big star like him donning a Scottish accent. But Gibson pulls it off amazingly, and becomes this legendary character from the first moment heís on screen. Revisiting the film, I had forgotten that such noted actors like Brian Cox and Brendan Gleeson were even in the film, and they give standout performances as well.

On a side note, I would like to see Gibsonís next directorial effort to be a bit lighter after his last three films. Heís a gifted storyteller, thereís no question about it, but I think at this point it would be more relieving for us and especially him if he directed something like a comedy or a sappy drama. Heck, even consider doing a sequel to The Man Without a Face.

But Braveheart still stands as an amazing work of art, as well as one of the best examples of pure epic filmmaking to ever be seen. Mel Gibson accomplishes remarkable double duty as star and director. Itís an astounding piece of filmmaking that stays with you after multiple viewings.

Video ****

For this new Special Collectorís Edition release, Paramount took the quality of the original DVD release, which had its flaws, and made an even stronger looking release. The anamorphic picture is remarkable in clarity, image detail and especially in color. John Tollís Oscar-winning cinematography looks more breathtaking than ever! The color palette is the biggest improvement, as the green of Scottish country landscapes seem all the more real, and more than they did before. Itís a strong re-issue that is a good enough reason for you to ditch your copy of the first release.

Audio ****

The 5.1 mix is strong as can be for a movie that has an equal share of action scenes and quieter moments. The production scale and set pieces allow for some strong sounding areas, and James Hornerís phenomenal score to the film has never sounding more astounding. But itís the battle scenes that standout, of course. The sounds of the men yelling and the thousand clanging of swords place you right in the middle of battle. An outstanding sounding disc all the way!

Features ****

This new 2-Disc Special Collectorís Edition release from Paramount has upgraded the extras phenomenally to make for one of the best re-issues of 2007.

Disc One features a commentary with Mel Gibson, which is both detailed and quite humorous.

Disc Two features the documentaries ďA Writer's JourneyĒ, the three-part documentary ďAlba gu Brath! The Making of BraveheartĒ, ďTales of William WallaceĒ and ďArchival Interviews with the Cast of BraveheartĒ. Also included are a Photo Montage and two Theatrical Trailers.

Summary:

For me, Braveheart remains Mel Gibsonís signature triumph both as an actor and as a filmmaker. It would establish him as a gifted cinematic storyteller and epic visionary. And this new 2-Disc Collectorís Edition release from Paramount is a true must-own release!

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