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Customer Review

165 of 193 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There are a few I think who missed the point., July 26, 2000
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This review is from: Braveheart (DVD)
In order to maintain the appearence of objectivity, I was going to rate this movie 4 stars. But I just couldn't. It really deserves 5, and it's going to get every one of them. This movie features some of the most stunning cinematography I've ever seen (scenes of particular brilliance include the deer-hunting scene and the slo-mo shots right before Gibson's first rebellion), impeccable acting (I don't know why the British have been hiding their actors from the American film industry - every one of the British/Scottish actors in the film was amazing, and Patrick McGoohan (sp) gave an incredible performance as Longshanks, not to mention newcomer Sophie Marceau), a magical musical score, and on and on and on and on. Physical elements alone qualify this work for the title of Best Picture.
Yet, a number of people chastise Gibson and the movie for a number of reasons, primarily its departure from historical accuracy. I do believe these people have missed the point, for I do not believe it is fair to criticise a movie for failing to realize a goal for which it never really strived. I wonder: do these same people criticize Homer's "The Odyssey"? Do historical hardbodies cast aspersions at T.H. White's "Once and Future King" for taking historical liberties with "King" Arthur? (For that manner, any of the hundreds of contributions to the Arthurian legend). What about Robin Hood? Beowulf? Romance of the Three Kingdoms? Why is it copacetic for a book to create a myth around a cultural hero, but when it comes to film we must be expected to be as straightlaced about historical fact as an army bootcamp is about bedmaking and floor cleaning?
I have read a lot of reviews below and a number of criticisers of the film's historical authenticity spit out the word "epic" as if it is a word that the American film industry has abused and transmogrified into a catchphrase for luring in gullible American movie-goers. But I argue that Braveheart, and the historical inaccuracies which it adopts (and it adopts many, which are nicely pointed out elsewhere), fit the same formula for "Epic Fiction" that we use to classify great (and I mean, universally accepted as great) epic works of fiction such as the Iliad, the Odyssey, etc. These works are not about who did what where and when and in what fashion. They are about the myth, the hero, and the way that they have influenced the ideals of the culture (italicize that). Was there really a Grendel, a Cyclops shepherd, a Wizard named Merlin, or Chinese war heroes who could single-handedly take on a small army? No. And yet, these works of fiction (and the mythological heroes that they have created) have had as much if not more of an impact on their respective cultures than any real life historical event. The impact of the epic is therefore not to be underestimated. Does the fact that Gibson portrayed the battle of Sterling Bridge without a Bridge really make that much of a differnce? The end outcome was the same, at least from an idealogical point of view. He rallied his men to victory with brilliant tactics against insurmountable odds. The presence or absence of a bridge, naked men, or twenty foot spears does not change that. The myth survives.
Finally, regarding historical accuracy, there is the fact that although the movie does take a lot of liberties in order to portray a THEME - I am intelligent enough to suspend my disbelief during the movie. Furthermore, after the movie is over, (and this is a credit to the movie-maker) I was intrigued enough to go do some research on the subject from an objective historical source to find out what really happened. If a work of art (which is not, I remind you, required to be objective - artistic objectivity is almost an oxymoron and film should not be treated differently in this regard than any other form of art) instills in me a desire to learn more about a subject while at the same time portraying well the epic themes it sets out to portray, then in my book it was a successful venture and worthy of all the accolades it receives....Again, this is an epic, and just as a Greek epic might portray the Trojans as ruthless savages and their own members as heroic visionaries, I think it is acceptable for a Scottish epic to do the same to the British. And calling Gibson a homophobic is just ridiculous. Whether or not Edward II was really gay is not important. If he was, then BY THE STANDARDS OF THE DAY, he was an outcast, and would have been perceived, especially by his father, as weak, without potential, and unfit to rule. If he wasn't gay, but was just disinterested in ruling a kingdom (and history is filled to the brim with examples of less than sterling royal progeny), he would have again been seen (especially by his father) as weak, without potential and unfit to rule (because fathers - especially kings - have expectations of their sons), and questions about his sexuality would have naturally begun to arise among the nobility and commonfolk. What we as viewers of a historical or epic piece of artwork must do is refrain from judging said work by our standards. Today, homosexuality is (for the most part) accepted by society. Back then, it wasn't, and the mere rumor was enough to get you rejected from society (and vice-versa). Therefore, in light of the times in which the movie is set, the portrayal of the weak fop of a prince, EdwardII, as homosexual is both acceptable and indicative of the society that the movie was trying to portray. It wouldn't, for example, have made much sense to portray Edward I as gay. Not because a gay man couldn't be a successful King or military leader, but because a gay man would never have achieved respect as a monarch - THEN - by the people or his enemy.
In closing, this is an excellent film that deserves its status as a best picture, despite (and perhaps because of) its historical inaccuracies. I encourage anyone with any interest in medieval history to view it, because it might just entice you to look into more historically accurate documents that, while not as entertaining as the movie iteself, will give you a more wholistic picture of what really happened.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 14, 2009 11:04:02 PM PDT
Wonderful review, the best I've read so far.

To compare art to life is illogical. Had this film stayed true to every historical fact, I highly doubt it would be as engaging as it is. More often than not, life is duller than fiction. The whole point of watching a film is, in my humble opinion, to get swept up in the story and be taken on an adventure, full of love, loss, triumph, and defeat.

I can't help but wonder if those sticklers for accuracy can really enjoy much of anything without a list of rigid requirements being laid out beforehand. I could point out one area in life in which this would be hilariously entertaining, but I have the good taste not to go into detail (laughing).

Posted on Mar 28, 2009 7:17:32 PM PDT
Edward I was not gay. Edward II most certainly was. Homosexuality in the Middle Ages was not feared nor was it punishable with death or imprisonment. That said, they were still at risk. Edward II was actually a huge powerful man who had the respect of most of his subjects. He was often found helping roofers roof or stonemasons mason, and therefore the lower classes liked him. His lover was not thrown through a tower window by his father but instead was beheaded by jealous nobles many, many years later. Edward II himself was done in by these nobles, impaled with a red-hot poker.

Gibson's film has homophobic tendancies that are out of place for circa 1297. Homosexuality was tolerated but not accepted. The Church, of course, hated it. But most Europeans called it the "womens sickness" and left well enough alone. There have always been homosexuals and it was no surprise to Medieval Europe. The sexually-frustrated hatred of such people wouldn't come in for several hundred years, with the Puritans and other like-minded religious observers.

Gibson's film commits a far worse crime than schoolboy homophobia. The Battle of Stirling Bridge has no bridge but instead is carried out on what looks like a golf course. Scots did not wear kilts in the Middle Ages nor paint their faces blue, nor were they living in stone-piled hovels like cavemen. Scotland was very wealthy at the time, which is why Longshanks wanted great chunks of it. To paint the Scots and the English in this manner does a disservice to them both. Randall Wallace, who is absolutely no relation and who wrote the screenplay, said with bald-faced innocence in an interview that, "I tried not to let the facts get in the way of the story."

Without the facts, there is no story.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 22, 2009 9:29:41 AM PDT
Diane Wray says:
Well golly, I guess their aren't many 'stories' out there huh. Facts? Don't see many facts in movies. The damn News today doesn't contain so many facts. Just because Gibson himself doesn't work for you as a human being, well, this might prejudice your view of the film. Anyway, I liked it and so did many others, I think.

Posted on Jun 25, 2009 10:26:11 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 17, 2009 6:24:44 AM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Jan 17, 2010 8:59:03 PM PST
JavaBean says:
Darn good review - top drawer! Thought-provoking and very well-presented. Thanks for organizing and sharing your views - much appreciated!

Posted on Jun 16, 2011 8:30:15 PM PDT
Corribus says:
LOL, can I comment on my own review?

I can't believe I wrote this over ten years ago! Even so, I'm inclined to still agree with the spirit of it. Braveheart remains one of my favorite movies of all time. Maybe Gibson should have set the battle by a bridge near a river to be more historically accurate. Then again, did his failure to do so really affect the quality of the movie? That battle scene was truly epic, one of the best in cinema ever. I think people who are sticklers for historical accuracy would do well to remember that people don't go to movies to be taught the nitty gritty of history. They go to be entertained. I suppose my comparisons of Braveheart to works of Homer were a bit overwrought, but on the other hand, even in "real life" the deeds and details of historical figures are romanticized and refiltered by the culture and society of each successive generation. I don't see anything wrong with that, even in more serious (i.e., not for profit) works of art. Seriously - it's a Hollywood movie we're talking about. Does anyone really go into a theatre thinking they're going to get a true telling of history? So why judge it based on those criteria?

I just don't see how anyone can really argue that this wasn't a fantastic movie, heavy-handed fictionalization not withstanding. The music was great, the acting was great, the cinematography was great, the action was great. It's got blood, it's got romance, it's got humor, it's got tragedy. It inspired me to go and learn about the real details surrounding William Wallace, so even as an educational tool it succeeded. It's true that there's no accounting for taste, but I for one continue to rate this as one of the best movies of the 1990s, and I find arguments to the contrary which are based on nits and picks about little historical details such as what direction the wind was blowing when the English charged across the bridge to be eye-rollingly unconvincing.

Posted on Feb 25, 2012 7:16:29 PM PST
Greg Prohl says:
Absolutely the best on-target review of this splendid and great film I have read on here or most anywhere, including the so-called "professionals" who are generally so jaded in their opinions as to be blind and comatose to something as genuine and heartfelt as Braveheart and letting it actually touch them in any meaningful way, instead pretending to some sort of lofty and unreachable "objectivity" which is in itself a joke. No one is completely objective about anything, it's an oxymoron for any human with a beating heart to not have all of their own experiences and prejudices influence how they perceive and feel about anything. If you don't like it, fine, say so and be done with it but don't preach to me about how this film or my reaction to it is somehow diminished by a perceived lack of historical accuracy. Just today I read some hack's column of most undeserving Oscar winners and of course, as always, there was Braveheart listed among the least deserving Best Films. I disagree and with all my heart and soul would nominate it as just the opposite, one of the very few times the Oscar was bestowed upon the very best and most deserving films ever created. I guarantee you people will still be watching and loving and having their hearts ripped asunder by this magnificent film decades from now when many other Oscar winners will have fallen into the dustbin of largely ignored historical artifacts.

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 4:08:42 PM PDT
sb says:
well it's obvious that the brits, especially the prudish ones, are not so fond of their own dirty laundry being aired in such a powerful storytelling. can you blame them?

Posted on Jan 15, 2013 6:46:59 PM PST
Duane says:
All art should be objective, if it's trying to achieve a goal.

The English lost one crucial battle involving a narrow bridge. They dominated up until then.

Posted on Dec 1, 2013 8:50:22 PM PST
Azhrei says:
Maybe some people are sticklers for historical accuracy because they don't want others to get the... wrong idea. For instance, I always thought this entire movie was based on what really happened, as in it happened the same way as the movie. Take your last paragraph, I thought scots DID live in stone huts and wear kilts then lol...... obviously I'm not a historian. lol
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