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Braveheart (2 Disc Special Edition)  [DVD]
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In 14th century Scotland, the English nobles are staking their claim for lands and the Scottish throne. When William Wallace is left an orphan by the brutality of the English, he vows to make Scotland strong again. Wallace grows up into a paradox of a man - on the one hand very well educated, on the other a ruthless killer and barbarian. As an adult he succeeds in uniting the Scottish clans to fight the English oppressors, and is only undone by betrayal and greed. Mel Gibson directs this multi-Oscar winning epic, and also stars as folk hero Wallace.
Mel Gibson's birth-of-a-nation epic Braveheart does for England what Spartacus did for Rome: every Englishman in this film is weak or nasty or a fool, or all three. Gibson plays William Wallace, the highland warrior whose fierce fighting spirit prompted Robert the Bruce's memorable victory over the English at Bannockburn. The film opens with boy Wallace losing his father and brother to the murdering English. Gibson's over-age Wallace then indulges in an unintentionally risible spot of teenage romance with the chaste Murron (Catherine McCormack), who is promptly despatched by yet another wicked Englishman. Gibson swings into action in some truly impressive (and horribly gory) fight scenes, culminating in the battles of Stirling and Falkirk.
When not separating English body parts, Gibson finds time for a clandestine romance with Isabelle, the Princess of Wales (Sophie Marceau), whom he manages to impregnate, thereby ensuring that the current British monarchy are all descended from him and not from William the Conqueror as they might heretofore have supposed. He trounces the weak and venial English at every turn, causing England's nasty Edward I (Patrick McGoohan) to cough and splutter a lot. Only treachery by the Scotch nobility (lowlanders to a man) stops Wallace's triumphant crusade. His final apotheosis, complete with pre-Passion of the Christ crucifixion imagery, posits Wallace as the redeemer of his country's lost independence.
The set-piece battles are a feast for the senses: a combination of the scale of Spartacus with the mud of Branagh's Henry V. But the continual use of slow motion in tandem with the gorgeous scenic backdrops and James Horner's cloying "folksy" music score of indeterminate national origin, enhances the feeling that this is a slick promo for the Scottish tourist board (ironic, perhaps, that much of it was shot in Ireland). Gibson and his Caledonian costars give the impression that a good time was had by all. --Mark Walker
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