Today we are traveling to the land of my people. No, not to coffee shops and bookstores (we are all supposed to be social distancing right now), but to the land of my heritage: Scotland and Ireland. “Braveheart,” a 1995 film directed and produced by one of Hollywood’s sometimes favorite, Mel Gibson (“We Were Soldiers,” “Lethal Weapon,” “The Patriot”) and written by one of Virginia’s own, Randall Wallace (“Secretariat,” “Pearl Harbor,” “The Man in the Iron Mask“). The true story of William Wallace, the medieval Scottish patriot, is mostly unknown, except that he won many battles with the British and then was executed as a traitor.
That does not stop Wallace and Gibson from teaming up and producing one of the gruesome, bloodiest, romantic, and historically tragic films of our time. Winner of 5 Academy Awards including Best Director (Mel Gibson), Best Picture (Mel Gibson, Alan Ladd, Jr. and Bruce Davey), Best Cinematography (John Toll), Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing (Peter Frampton, Paul Pattison). It was also nominated for 5 more categories most notably, Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Randall Wallace).
“They may take away our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”– William Wallace
As Wallace stated, “Before I wrote the film, I had never heard of William Wallace, and his story seemed so romantic to me. I think he is an ancestor, I feel his blood in my veins. I can’t prove it but then no one can disprove it.” I believe most of us with Scotch-Irish blood feel the same way. We may not have the last name to prove it, but we have a lot of grit, more than most.
Filmed in Ireland and Scotland, but mostly in Ireland. A decision that dissuaded purists in the accuracy of the filmmaking. However, the setting is ideal for filmmakers: consisting of many tax breaks and plenty of extras. The modernization of the story added to its ability to resonate with many of today’s generation. It is bloody and gruesome, but so was the thirteenth century.
Gibson is incredible. He has the ability to make you, the viewer, feel as if you are going into battle with him: “He is an amazing battlefield strategist…There is a scene where he is so pumped up with the scent of battle that his nostrils flare; not many actors could get away with that, but Gibson can.” If anyone has seen “We Are Soldiers” or “The Patriot,” I need not explain further.
“Braveheart” is fiction, but it “is art-directed to the hilt, with a combination of mud and grime and movie-star glamour.” There is also plenty of romance, as it usually accompanies a war story. Wallace, who is trying to live in peace, until the English murder is true love, his wife, Murron (Catherine McCormack).
The result: the next two hours, we watch Wallace lead a full-fledge revolt against England. Along the way, he encounters the Princess Isabella of Wales (Sophia Marceau) after her weak husband sends her with a message to Wallace. He gets the message and she gets pregnant.
Rotten Tomatoes rates it a 77% critics score and an 85% audience score. The critic consensus is that it is “Distractingly violent and historically dodgy [and it] justifies its epic length by delivering enough sweeping action, drama, and romance to match its ambition.”
The film is beautifully tragic, bloody, muddy, and malicious. It is fiction, but it is some of the best fiction I would like to believe. Gibson and Wallace have proven they are a Hollywood duo that cannot be stopped.