Over the next couple of weeks, while I’m trying to immerse myself in all things Celtic (mostly Scottish), I’ll be watching whatever Scottish-related films I can get my hands on.
The first was a re-watching of “Braveheart,” the 1995 film that kind of made Mel Gibson more than your basic action star. The movie was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won five, including best picture and best director.
Based very loosely on the legend of Scottish bada$$ William Wallace, who raised an army and fought the English, the film was wildly controversial in Scotland for it’s mendacious mangling of history for the sake of cinema.
Also, nobody liked Mel’s accent, which does tend to slip in and out, but in all fairness, he’s an American from Australia trying to sound like a Scotsman. He was doomed from the start.
Still, horrible abuse of Scottish history or not, Scottish tourism embraced the film with both arms for a while, offered tours and there was even a statue erected somewhere that looked a lot like Mel Gibson.
The locals hated it, but people kept spending money.
In looking at the film all over, I was reminded that Mel Gibson has a tendency toward gore that almost turns comic. Fights in the film often go well over the top with a variety of impalings, limbs being lopped off and gallons of blood flowing in every direction.
Even with some betrayals on the side of the Scottish cause, the film scans as very black and white. The English are universally horrible. The Scottish commoners are all noble and earnest, even if their leaders are kind of slimy opportunists.
I’m not fond of the characterization of King Edward’s son, who is clearly portrayed as effeminate, craven and gay for the sake of contrasting him with his severe, alpha male father and giving the audience another reason to dislike him –but blockbuster films of the time, of which this one was, tended to paint in broad, dumb strokes.
Also, it’s not a true to the man. According to history, the guy with the boyfriend who gets tossed out a window (SPOILER) had five kids by two women, which doesn’t absolutely say he wasn’t gay, but might be evidence that he didn’t loathe the company of women.
Still, overall, “Braveheart” is a good action epic that has held up fairly well over the last 20 years, even if Gibson’s career hasn’t. It’s more fun than pretty much everything Michael Bay ever released, even if the film isn’t as accurate as an episode of “Drunk History.”
“Braveheart” looks great, has all the excitement of a big, popcorn-munching film and has some heart.
I liked it.