I really like "Braveheart" it is what I call a true epic for the simple fact it is shot on location, has lots of extras, big battles, stunts, some romance and great characters. What it doesn't have is that feel of being synthetic which many more recent big movies have because of their reliance on CGI and call me old fashioned but I like watching actors on location, 100s of extras dressed up in costume and stuntmen doing their stuff, I love that authentic feeling. Unfortunately the word authentic is also part of the reason why I hold back from giving "Braveheart" a perfect store because this is a heavily fictionalised story which whilst working as entertainment skews facts so much that it borders on the realms of miss-information. Now in fairness the facts on William Wallace to my knowledge are not extensive so the created story with its romance doesn't bother me but the detail, the use of clan tartan, soldier uniforms, primae noctis and royal marriages all contribute to it being inaccurate.
As for the plot of "Braveheart" well in many ways the best movies are the most simplest and this is in truth simple. Years after his father was killed and he went to live and be educated by his Uncle Argyle, William Wallace returns to his home to start life as a farmer and hopefully have sons with the beautiful Murron. But when an incident with the King's soldiers leads to Murron's death it in turn leads William to do battle and in doing so becoming the people's champion much to the grievance of the Scottish nobleman as William plans to reclaim Scotland for the Scottish by fighting.
So there you go the basic storyline in "Braveheart" is a simple tale of a hero doing battle against an evil ruler. But that doesn't do it credit because whilst William Wallace's campaign for freedom is the vehicle there are lots of subplots going on from King Edward's son and his forced marriage to Princess Isabelle whilst having a homosexual lover Phillip. There is also the politics of the Scottish nobleman including Robert the Bruce who feels torn between the politics and wanting to be the leader of the common man. And there is romance both with William's love of Murron and then when he meets Princess Isabelle so whilst "Braveheart" is basically an action epic these subplots makes you follow what is going on.
But as I said "Braveheart" is an action epic full of all sorts of action such as the comical rock throwing between William and Hamish, as well as a scene where the tough as nails Campbell has an arrow removed from his chest. There are also the big scale battles as we watch armies go flying in at each other that is after a comically cheeky bum baring scene. And then there is the individual action be it William evading capturing in a village of soldiers or when he confronts Murron's killer which is one of many very visual action scenes which later on include a man getting his head bashed in. All of which is great because as I said it all feels authentic, lost of actors, extras and stuntmen creating powerful action which delivers that sense of awe which is often lacking in more modern movies.
On that note I get to Mel Gibson who firstly does a brilliant job as director and delivers a movie which is a real crowd pleaser but also one which highlights his talents for behind the camera with an eye for what looks impressive. But whilst Gibson wouldn't be my first choice to play a Scot he does a memorable job of playing William Wallace and delivers every ounce of a hero which is what the movie calls for. But the thing about "Braveheart" and another reason why I class it as an epic is that every character has just that "character", from the small parts such as the English soldier Smythe who tries to force himself on Murron, a part some might be surprised to hear is played by Michael Byrne to the bigger parts such as Brendan Gleeson as Hamish. Every character has a part to play and are not just making up numbers and each actor brings that character to life.
But here is my problem with "Braveheart" because I can accept the fictionalised story of William Wallace because to my understanding documentation on what he did is scarce but the historical inaccuracies are vast. From timeline issues to the use of clan tartans, soldiers uniforms and the iconic use of woad it all contributes to paint and entertaining but false picture. And unfortunately because "Braveheart" has become such a popular movie there are a lot of people who now believe certain things.
What this all boils down to is that "Braveheart" is my sort of movie because it has that authentic epic feel with big action with lots of actors and people who demonstrate their skills. But at the same time the lack of authenticity when it comes to historical facts is an issue and the reason why I can't give it a top score.