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Braveheart (Special Collector's Edition) - action/adventure DVD review
BRAVEHEART (SPECIAL COLLECTOR'S EDITION) rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 5 stars
Actors: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Brian Cox, Sean McGinley
Director: Mel Gibson   Studio: Paramount
DVD release: 18 December 2007   Runtime: 177 minutes (2 discs)
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Special Edition, Widescreen, 2-Disc Keep Case, NTSC
DVD Features: Subtitles (English, French, Spanish), Audio Tracks (2.0 Surround, 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital; English, French, Spanish), Commentary by director Mel Gibson, "A Writer's Journey," "Alba gu Brath!: The Making of Braveheart," "Tales of William Wallace," "Archival interviews with the cast," "Reviving a Genre," "The Heat of Battle," "Worth the Fight," Photo montage, 2 original theatrical trailers

Mel Gibson's Braveheart is a moving film, and I'd nearly forgotten how great it is. The story goes that around the year 1300, Scotsman William Wallace got tired of English rule and rose up against them with a fair amount of success. Wallace, played by Gibson here, had seen the cruelty of the English since he was a child. He'd seen clan leaders killed and hanged when they came to meet with the English. His father and brother were killed in the battle that followed. Taken in and educated by his uncle, Wallace grew to know the world and a number of foreign tongues, but always longed to return to his family's farm in Scotland to get married and have children. When he sees the law of Prima Nocte (first night) re-established, a barbaric law which allows English nobles to bed a new bride on her wedding night, he decides to wed in secret.

One day his wife, Murron (Catherine McCormack), is harassed in the market, and the attack escalates. Wallace defends her honor and gets in trouble (assault on a soldier is analogous to assault on a king). Soldiers capture Murron and kill her to draw out her husband. Mistake. When she does not turn up at the rendezvous, Wallace comes back to find her. He and other men in the village wipe out the local English soldiers and officers. They keep up the momentum and take out the nearest fort, leaving some soldiers to go and tell England that the sons and daughters of Scotland are free now and won't be needing them to come 'round any longer.

Naturally things escalate and there are enormous battles and cunning tactics by the outnumbered Scots. The battle scenes are not confusing as they might have become; the English wear mostly orange and the Scots mostly plaid, which is a help.

Between battles, we see England's King Edward I, Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan), and his dilemma. He wants the Scots in line, but he's also dealing with France simultaneously. He wants to expand his kingdom as much as possible for his milquetoast son, Edward (Peter Hanly). Longshanks' health is failing, and he's frustrated by his wimpy son. He sends his son's wife, Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau), to meet with Wallace. Isabelle is taken by Wallace; she's heard rumors about why Wallace is fighting and is impressed by the romance of it (her husband wouldn't likely do the same for her).

There are betrayals, battles, injuries, love and deaths. In the end, Wallace is captured and taken to England to be made an example. It's a moving story from start to end, and it is well done.

Historically, not much is known about William Wallace. Scribe Randall Wallace made a fine story from the broad strokes that history supplied. While much of it can be discarded as fancy, the story doesn't get too Hollywood on us. All the actors are covered in muck from the word go, and while it may not all be true, it feels right.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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