It all starts when England imposes a law allowing their nobles to sleep with Scotland’s brides on their wedding nights. Now, this would piss off any person on a regular day. But Scotsmen? I hate to point out the obvious, but way to pick your battles, England. William Wallace (Mel Gibson) is a brave-hearted commoner who vows to free Scotland from England’s tyrannical rule and the Scottish plebes from some serious oppression. He builds an army, fights a few battles, and sets out to make damn sure that England learns their lesson. Braveheart is gutsy, dirty, full of pep talks, and demonstrates wholeheartedly that Scotsmen are not to be trifled with.
While Mel Gibson’s accent isn’t completely foolproof, he does a great job of proving that Scotsmen are tougher than the tool that forges tough nails: they douse open wounds in whiskey before cauterizing them and getting back to the party; they ignore their homeland’s damp climate and say “nah!” to long sleeves; and they act like getting impaled with an arrow is no worse than a flu shot. At one point, one of them literally gets shot in the ass, but that’s only because he was displaying said bare bottom to a line of English archers. No sense, no feeling. These Scotsmen are a rowdy bunch of hooligans on the best of days, but with weapons, war paint, and a threat to their freedom, they’re like a sleuth of angry black bears in a cage with a duck.
With all the testosterone flying about, you can imagine there aren’t many female roles in Braveheart. You’re right. I think. Like the imaginary dwarf women of The Lord of Rings, it’s hard to tell who belongs to which gender because these Scots are just so filthy. The muck and grime cover most of their distinguishable features. William Wallace’s blue face paint must have been the alternative to taking a bath. Just cover it up, Willie! No one will notice!
Although I can’t speak for the historical accuracy of the film, I can say that the actors did a fine job of playing the characters they were given. The script has a nice flow, there isn’t too much of anything, and the cinematography is full of variety. On a plot level, the writers embraced Britain’s historical hierarchical structure, with the English on top, Scots in the middle, and the Irish down there with the sheep. Embracing this discrimination emphasizes what a bad guy King Edward Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) is, while poking fun at it makes the trademark Irishman, Stephen (David O’Hara), a lovable and quirky rogue. There is plenty of colour among the cast, even if the locations and sets are generally grey and bleak.
There’s enough action and gore in this film to keep you satisfied for the full three hours, but it’s not very kind to horses. If you’re a lover of the animals, heads up. The dialogue is also inspiring, insightful, and sometimes quite funny:
Braveheart is a great film if you’re looking for inspirational speeches and hardy men in muddy kilts. I give it 7.5/10.