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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Braveheart: A great movie about a rebellion

Before we start, a couple of warnings. First, the story will start emerging as you read on, so if you feel that an element of surprise is being lost, then stop reading at any point of time. Next, if you are going to treat this movie as a guide to the history of the Scottish rebellion against the British under William Wallace, don't ! There are many inaccuracies in the movie, but they don't detract from the overall movie effect.
This is a great movie, and can also be called an example of life imitating art. The release of this movie in 1995 highlighting the Scottish rebellion against the English rule in the middle ages galvanized Scottish feelings of their own identity. The historic locations portrayed in the film became tourist destinations (and interestingly, so did the battle scene locations in Ireland where most of the fight scenes were shot; the other scenes were shot in Scotland). Some cast members from the movie were also present when the 1997 Scottish Parliament took their seat, having obtained powers under a new deal with London.

Braveheart: A great movie about a rebellion

The movie had Mel Gibson in a triple role, having produced, directed, and starred as the main lead. The movie was pretty successful, having cost around $53 million to make, and earning more than $200 million.
The movie has been praised for the reality of the battle scenes (not the accuracy, but the great detail put into making the battle scenes), for the great musical score for the movie (composed by James Horner, who also composed soundtracks for Titanic, Aliens, and Apollo 13). This was complemented by some great actings efforts; by Mel Gibson who put his heart into the lead role of the reluctant warrior William Wallace; by Patrick McGoohan as 'Longshanks' (aka known as Edward I, the cruel and brilliantly cunning kind of England); Sophie Marceau as Princess Isabelle, the arranged bride for the effeminate son of Edwards I and who also develops a soft corner for Wallace; Ian Bannen as Robert the Bruce, Sr, unable to try for the Scottish throne because of his leprosy, but who is as cunning and will do any amount of treachery for his son Robert The Bruce (Angus Macfadyen).
It seems to have won the critics acclaim as well, being nominated for 10 Academy Awards, and in a mark of the sweep, it won the 2 most treasured Oscars for Best Movie and Best Direction. Overall, the movie won 5 Oscars:
* Best Picture
* Best Director (Mel Gibson)
* Best Cinematography
* Best Makeup
* Best Sound Editing
The story is about a country under the control of a powerful and cunning king, Edwards I. He has also conquered much of Scotland and done so rather brutally, killing William Wallace's father and brother. Much later, when William becomes an adult, he is not a warrior. But when an attack on his wife, the beautiful Murron (Catherine McCormack), by British soldiers happens, William defeats them. However, he is unable to control the consequences; the sheriff brutally cuts her throat, an incident that sets the remainder of Wallace's life.
He is now a man on a quest, and starts attacking the English camp and fort, and becomes a hero and inspiration to Scots. He starts successfully, defeating the English on a couple of occasions, including the great Battle of Stirling. However, he now starts coming up against politics, with the Scottish nobility betraying him at another battle (Falkirk) where he loses. He moves into a guerrilla campaign against the English. During this time period, he meets Princess Isabelle as an emissary of the English king, and they have a brief but passionate relationship. In the last section of the movie, Wallace walks into a trap where he is betrayed by Bruce the elder, and other nobles and handed over to the English.
He is tried for treason, and you have to remember, this was a time when torture was permissible as a penalty. He refuses to acknowledge the authority of the court, and is sentenced to death after being 'purified by pain'. What follows is a sequence of blood and gore as he is tortured to almost death, and scream 'Freedom' with his last breath, and he is then beheaded and body parts sent to different areas to display as a sign of the fate of people committing treason.
William is dead, but he inspires Robert the Bruce and other Scottish to finally defeat the English, and win their freedom.

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