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"Braveheart" on DVD

Mel-ancholy Scot?

Mel Gibson's epic tale of freedom-fighting Scotsmen won five 1995 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. It's a terrific, though brutal, movie that beautifully captures the time and the people.

Gibson is William Wallace, a commoner who has greatness thrust upon him when he leads a revolution against the English tyranny that's keeping his people enslaved and humiliated.

Scotland, and England, are under the rule of Edward the Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan), a cruel and ruthless king who will stop at nothing to maintain his grip on the people and ensure his line continues after he passes on the crown to his pouffy son.

After being raised by his uncle (his father was killed by the King's men), Wallace returns home and shortly afterward marries his childhood sweetheart, secretly, to prevent her from having to spend her wedding night in the amorous clutches of their English overlords. Doesn't matter, though; a Brit takes a shine to her and tries to rape her. She fights back and for her guts gets her throat slit publicly, as a warning to others.

This sets Wallace on the trail of vengeance and freedom and he assembles a "rabble army" of Scots determined to drive out the English and free their homeland.

Gibson does a terrific job on both sides of the camera. His widescreen masterpiece is beautifully shot, from the gorgeous locations and set pieces to the "cast of thousands" battle scenes. Gibson's Wallace not only has his Scottish brogue down very well, but is a picture of strength and integrity. McGoohan is deliciously vile as Longshanks, and Sophie Marceau (as Longshanks' daughter in law) also turns in an excellent performance as a woman torn between her duty and what's right.

The widescreen DVD (enhanced for 16x9 TV's) looks great and the Dolby Digital audio is wonderful. The disc hasn't been given the THX treatment, but it doesn't appear to suffer for it.

Extras include a directory's commentary as only Mel Gibson can do it (the opening sequence in which a young Wallace is traumatized by many of his hanged countrymen includes a comment that the actors involved just had to "hang around" all day). There's also a documentary "A Director's Passion: The Making of Braveheart" and a couple of theatrical trailers.

"Braveheart" is one of those old fashioned epics like "Lawrence of Arabia" or "Ben-Hur," and Gibson has pulled it off magnificently. It's a brutal film of brutal times, and a wonderful movie to own.

Braveheart, from Paramount Home Video
177 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital
Starring Mel Gibson, Patrick McGoohan, Sophie Marceau, Catherine McCormack
Produced by Mel Gibson and Alan Ladd, Jr. and Bruce Davey,
Written by Randall Wallace, Directed by Mel Gibson


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Updated May 13, 2006