Gibson directs a historical triumph in Braveheart
Directed by Mel Gibson.
Written by Randall Wallace.
Starring Mel Gibson, Catherine McCormack, and Patrick McGoohan.
By Teresa Esser
Mel Gibson's Braveheart is a curious compostion of historical legends and modern dramatic techniques woven together into a tapestry of connected stories. With the plot based loosely on Scotland's real-life struggle for independence from England and the screenplay straight from modern Hollywood, the three-hour show reminds one more of Lethal Weapon and Pulp Fiction than the other medieval Scottish movie of the summer, Rob Roy.
The movie's plot is rather complex. Young William Wallace follows his father and brother to a peacemaking meeting in a remote Scottish barn, where they find their noble countrymen dead and swinging from the rafters. When William's father and brother ride off to avenge this trickery (and meet their own deaths), young William is adopted by his cosmopolitan uncle. Schooled in Latin and French and introduced to the wonders of continental Europe, William returns years later to his tiny village determined to settle down and marry his childhood sweetheart, Murron (Catherine McCormack). Wallace's domestic bliss is extremely shtort lived, for the evil British lords slit Murron's throat.
Thus provoked, Wallace assembles his friends and neighboring clansmen into an army, burns the British forts and charges toward the English border.
Braveheart increases its appeal by contrasting these highland goings-on with portrayals of British regal life. As evil King Edward I (Patrick McGoohan) grows older, he worries more and more about what will happen after his death. Frustrated with his heir's homosexuality, he literarally picks up his son's lover and throws him out a tower window. The French-born queen-to-be, Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau), kills time by wandering through the castle corridors, gossiping with her lady-in-waiting and lamenting her nonexistent love life.
The Scottish clansmen and the English royalty intersect when Isabelle becomes infatuated with the passionate peasant hero, Wallace. Sent by the tricky king to offer gold and a truce to Wallace in person, her crush intensifies when she learns that the "savage" is tri-lingual. Suffice it to say that their covert liaison threatens to reconfigure the royal bloodline.
Although the Scots have a impassioned ringleader and military strategist on their side, their cause is weakened by the handful of wishy-washy and traitorous nobles who managed to survive Edward's last round of peace-talk hangings. In addition to these internal conflict, the English army has a decided technological advantage
Starving, ill-equipped and vastly outnumbered, the rebellious Scots take on legion after legion of Britian's best in a series of bass-underscored battlescenes guarenteed to get your heart pounding. "They fought like warrior poets," the narrator says. Unfortunately, they died like misguided lemmings.
Although a great many of the scenes in Braveheart are unusually gruesome, it is difficult to avoid being drawn in to the ubiquitous life-and-death struggles. The battle scenes may be far-fetched and the sheer quantity of impaled, gouged, hacked, or smashed bodies a bit extreme, but the film as a whole is immensely satisfying.