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Retrospective Film Review: Braveheart

Saturday 01 February 2014

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Words Spindle

Despite accusations of an exhaustive roll-call of historical inaccuracies, Mel Gibson’s biopic of William Wallace’s freedom fighter is still a hugely enjoyable slice of Sunday afternoon escapism.

Buoyed by a fleet of great actors (including, notably, McGoohan’s portrayal of über-bastard Longshanks and David O’ Hara as a batty Irish mercenary), impressive pre-CGI battle sequences, Cinematographer John Toll’s earthy and notably un-Hollywood muted pastoral hues, and a stirring score from James Horner (one of his best and a clear precursor to his score for James Cameron’s Titanic two years later), Braveheart emerges as a triumphant and monumental feat of filmmaking that recalls the breadth of skill and expansive scale of Kevin Costner’s passion-piece Dances With Wolves in 1992.

More recent events have done much to sully Gibson’s reputation in the court of public opinion, but as ever, the conundrum of “love the art, not the artist” provides a valid argument. Politically, it’s all over the place, but never underestimate a central conceit as powerful as one man rousing the inert masses to take action in order to conserve heritage and protect freedom.

If the purpose of film is to, what? Inform? Educate? Provoke? Stimulate? Inspire and entertain? Well, Braveheart delivers in spades.

Words: Ash Verjee