Sunday, February 23, 2014

Oscar Month: Braveheart (1995)

Oscar Month continues today with Braveheart, an epic war film which won the Oscar for Best Picture despite winning no precursor awards. The Paramount film won five Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director (Mel Gibson), Best Cinematography, Best Makeup and Best Sound Effects Editing. It was nominated for an additional five Oscars including Best Original Screenplay (Randall Wallace), Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and Best Original Score. Braveheart, in many ways, is similar to Lawrence of Arabia, another Best Picture winning epic. It's overlong and drags at some points, but in the end, is a beautiful, entertaining film.

Braveheart tells the story of William Wallace (Mel Gibson), a Scottish freedom fighter. After Wallace's wife (Catherine McCormack) is killed by the British for breaking an unjust law, Wallace assembles a team of Scots to start a rebellion against the English. Wallace's legend grows and the King (Patrick McGoohan) feels a growing threat against his kingdom. Wallace's rebellion against the English eventually spreads into a full-on invasion and a full-on war with danger at every corner.

Braveheart is one of the most controversial Best Picture winners of all time. In 1995, it beat out front-runner Apollo 13 after not winning a single pre-cursor award. In fact, Empire Magazine named it the worst movie ever to win Best Picture. And while I will agree that it's probably not the best to ever win and a far more commercial choice for the academy, it's far from the worst (The Artist is a pretty poor choice). Very far from the worst. Braveheart is a beautiful, entertaining action with a hero at its center that you can really get behind. And while it is slow in parts and is long (177 mins), Braveheart still manages to compel and entertain throughout.

Braveheart is led by a good performance by Mel Gibson as William Wallace. He's the emotional center of the film and if Gibson doesn't turn in a good performance, Braveheart doesn't work. Gibson gives a powerful performance and that leads the film throughout. The supporting cast is led by Brendan Gleeson and David O'Hara as Hamish and Stephen. The two actors play Wallace's right-hand men and give strong performances and even some comic relief. Patrick McGoohan also gives a good, but slightly overdone performance as King Longshanks.

The action in this film is part of the reason why it is so successful. This film is a crowd-pleasing one through and through. From the battle speeches to rouse the troops to the graphically violent but thrilling battle scenes, Braveheart is a movie that can be enjoyed by everybody. And that's not a bad thing. I know that some people think that the Academy should always pick the "most important" movie of the year, but they're not always going to. Although I really like Apollo 13, Braveheart is just as good of a choice for Best Picture.

Braveheart is not a film that won the Oscar because its screenplay was brilliant or because its acting was the best of the year. Braveheart won because it's a film that makes you feel good. It's themes of freedom and fighting for your right to live independently are ones that everyone can get behind. That's why Braveheart is a great film. It makes you feel good.

However, this film could have used a little bit more editing. It's very long at 177 minutes and it does drag at times. There are repetitive passages and there were a couple times where the movie didn't need another battle sequences, but put one in there anyways. There were a couple parts that felt dull as well and I was starting to get boring of the movie by the time it got to its conclusion. However, the movie does come to a brilliant, inspiring conclusion that is absolutely perfect. The ending literally bumps this movie up a letter grade.

In the end, I really enjoyed Braveheart. It's an inspiring film with themes that anyone can get behind and it features an excellent performance by Mel Gibson. It has a fantastic score by James Horner and the locations are beautiful. This movie really does have it all: exciting war scenes, romance, stunning locales. Braveheart is a pretty good film and one that will inspire and entertain audiences for years to come.


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