After releasing The Man Without a Face (1993), Mel Gibson developed a knack for directing films. His debut feature film wasn’t the best-received film he ever made; in fact, it was a mediocre crime drama that didn’t really bring much to the table. However, a little while into the world of directing he began to understand the complicated process that is filmmaking as he bootlegged his way through Braveheart.
His second feature film, and one that would go on to define Mel Gibson’s career. Despite the recent controversies surrounding his work and the messages he portrays forward, Mel Gibson’s direction is stellar and Braveheart is one of the biggest reasons why.
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The Movie Review
Braveheart is a historical epic, the tale of William Wallace, a Scottish noble whose kingdom was turned upside down when the English King Edward also known as “Longshanks” invaded Scotland. Through thorough manipulation of the hierarchy and causing civil unrest among the citizens, he executed the King of Scotland and took over the throne for himself. The story then follows William Wallace, as an adult man rebelling against King Edward’s terrifying English rule over the Scottish people.
The tale of how he battled through adversity, and even going so far as to giving his life to spark the fires rebellion and freedom among the Scottish common folk, and Robert the Bruce.
This historical epic was a huge task for Mel Gibson as a director to conquer, especially due to the fact that he was also starring himself as the main character William Wallace. This made the job especially tricky, handling direction as well as acting, in a precariously difficult role such as William Wallace. He originally wanted to cast Brad Pitt, however, with the budget and scheduling limitations, he took the role upon himself.
The production design was epic, in large open fields in Ireland, after thoroughly researching the locations in Scotland. James Horner’s stellar soundtrack also was a huge part of why Braveheart was such a success, as well as the make-up and cinematography, was revolutionary for the time; it got nominated for most of the awards at the Oscars and won five including Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, and Sound Design.
It is almost as if, the tale of William Wallace was meant to be a difficult one to tell. The film sent hundreds of crew members through many hurdles in production, and through different parts of the world to research. The most difficult aspects were to operate and maneuver cameras during the on-screen wars, which were large-scale battle sequences with hundreds and hundreds of people participating in the shoot. It’s safe to say that Braveheart winning best cinematography was one of the most deserved awards in the history of the academy awards.
While I did find some issues regarding historical accuracy within the film, the concept of magical realism is prevalent here more than ever. The concept revolves around switching up historical accuracy in such a way that it is still relevant, yet entertaining for an audience. This is the method used in the film; however, the film’s portrayal of the characters was a bit too black and white, while I would’ve preferred it was greyer.
Coincidentally though, Mel Gibson’s performance as William Wallace was absolutely spot on and that is largely in part due to the wonderful make-up and costume design that was implemented. He looks just like the folk tales described Wallace, and not just him even Robert the Bruce and Isabella of France were truthful depictions, and the characters rarely ever break their historic portrayals. King Edward was the only exaggerated character, which took away a lot from the film’s overall legitimacy and accuracy. It highlighted his negative aspects a bit too much and undermined his love for poetry, harp music, and his devotion to his wife and people sadly.
The Bottom Line
Overall though, Braveheart is a magical yet historically accurate depiction of the invasion of Scotland right up until the public execution of William Wallace and the freedom of the Scottish from the tyrannical English monarch. Mel Gibson’s true directorial merits are on display here, as he managed to direct and act at the same time while creating a film that required so much joint cast and crew effort to create.