I vividly remember walking out of the theater in 1995 and thinking that I had just witnessed the greatest film Hollywood would ever have to offer in BRAVEHEART. A sweeping historical epic that combined romance, action, humor and a charming Mel Gibson at the height of his fame. Nearly 23 years later, I don’t hold BRAVEHEART in such high esteem anymore, but it is a fantastic film and definitely one of the best actor-directing-himself performances in history.
Mel Gibson stars as William Wallace, a noble Scotsman in the late 1200’s that inspires his country to rise up against England’s rule. That’s about as historically accurate as the film gets and some might even question Wallace’s true nobility. Not everyone knew that in 1995 because the internet wasn’t around back then to destroy every historical movie. But the point is that there are some overarching truths to be found in the film, but when it comes to medieval characters, especially those romanticized as much as William Wallace, specific details are sketchy at best. Although the film makes some attempts to keep things somewhat grounded, this isn’t a documentary; this is a movie about a famous historical figure and writer Randall Wallace took liberties to make the film entertaining. If you’re looking for a documentary, you shouldn’t go to the movies.
Regardless of what you think about Mel Gibson these days, there was a time when it was hard to find a more charismatic leading man. BRAVEHEART is the culmination of his work in the Lethal Weapon series and his practice directorial debut THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE. As an actor, he’s great in BRAVEHEART, giving the character a sympathy that only a seasoned A-lister can bring while still making him strong and heroic. But it’s Mel the director that really shines in BRAVEHEART. I always think of BRAVEHEART as the start of the epic battle trend in Hollywood and even after more than 20 years, the film is still the standard for how to film a giant battle sequence.
When people look back on BRAVEHEART, they tend to remember the great battle sequences, the inspirational pre-battle speech and the gut-wrenching ending. As great as BRAVEHEART is in those moments, it’s not without its problems. The pseudo-relationship with Princess Isabelle was awkward and unnecessary, as were some of the longer scenes of the inner-politics with Robert the Bruce. Once we get past the emotional death of Wallace’s wife, we don’t get much insight into the man or what continues to drive him, other than his patriotism. These are minor issues, but after dozens of viewings, they start to seem more distracting than they did after the first viewing.
BRAVEHEART’s greatness might have diminished over time, but it’s still one of the better historical epics ever made. Mel Gibson established himself as an incredibly talented director and further proved himself as one of the most charismatic actors of his generation, even if his legacy has been tarnished sine this film’s release.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: This might be the best 4K UHD on the market as of the time of this review. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it’s an honest assessment of a 23 year old film that has received a stunning transfer on UHD. Everything about this transfer shines through, from the greater detail in clothing and closeups to the beautiful landscapes and sweeping shots. You can see the imperfections in the facepaint during the closeups as well as the dirt and blood on the character’s faces. Although I hate to say it, watching BRAVEHEART on 4K felt like watching it in a whole new light, almost duplicating the feeling I had when I saw it in theaters in 1995. Fans of the film will be thrilled with this release while fans of 4K will be excited to see what Paramount can do with their catalog titles.
Audio: The Dolby Atmos track is as equally impressive as the video, giving the soundtrack new life. Between the stunning video and the great audio, you’ll feel like you’re on the battlefield with William Wallace.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
There are no special features exclusive to the 4K, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which includes ll of the special features found on the original Blu-ray release.