I consider Braveheart to be the precursor to modern era epic battle movies such as Gladiator, Troy, Alexander, and Lord of the Rings. It was filmed and shown before CGI, or computer-generated imagery became common in movie production.
Due to this, I had tempered my expectations for this film, as I knew the battle scenes were developed without the aid of computers or graphics. Whatever limitations it would have in terms of special effects, I expect it to be made up by a much better story and character development. But it ultimately let me down.
Mel Gibson stars and directs in this movie, which in 1996, won Best Picture and a Best Director award for Gibson. I guess it must have been a very weak year for movies at the time, as I don't get how this won. It's mildly entertaining, and at times even fun to watch, but horribly overrated.
Gibson portrays William Wallace, a thirteenth century Scottish bandit/rebel who fights to free his people from the evil English. This is the film's fatal flaw as I don't find Mel Gibson at all convincing in this role. Wallace is supposed to be this fearsome brute of a man, savage and courageous at the same time. And I just never see these qualities in his acting.
Another complaint of mine is how this movie appears to advertise itself as being based on historical events, yet is terribly inaccurate. I understand that the storytelling needs to be exaggerated and some new parts made up to add entertainment value. But in this case, Braveheart went too far off course.
Even while watching this, I couldn't believe how saintly Wallace was portrayed, I'm pretty sure the real-life figure wasn't at all like this. I'm not even sure if his wife existed, or if the Scots were the good guys, or if King Edward Longshanks was that ruthless. Once you start to doubt whether these events actually happened or not, that's when things start slipping.
Despite these complaints, I confess I found it entertaining at times. Particularly all the scenes with King Edward (Longshanks). I enjoyed the tough guy, kick-ass King character. You can feel his power and ruthlessness. To illustrate just how bad ass this elderly king is, in one of the scenes, he throws his son's male lover out a tower window, and effortlessly beats up his son when he tries to fight back.
The battle scenes were ok but lacked emotion. At times it felt like these were actors going through the motions of fighting. There were also some moments which felt too contrived, such as when the Irish and Scots changed sides. The ending where Wallace seemed to get the upperhand of the King even in defeat was just too precious and made me groan out loud.
This would have been a pretty good lighthearted action flick. It just took itself too seriously.
Rating: 2/5 * *
Overrated Best Picture