Braveheart ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

If Braveheart had opened later in 1995, I may have gone to see it at the Oldham 8. Alas, it had already run its course by the time that theater finally opened on 8 September 1995. Rather than being awed by its epic scale on the big screen, my first viewing was on pan and scan VHS, stretched throughout an entire week of one of my high school history classes. Not ideal viewing circumstances, but I was wowed just the same.

I'm afraid I have to confess to being unclear at the time just how accurate the film was. Since then, of course, I've come to view it in much the same vain as a Robin Hood movie or a Western featuring real life figures. The completely made-up resolution of Longshanks (Patrick McGooghan), for instance, doesn't faze me anymore because it's satisfying cinema even if the historian in me just rolls his eyes. And Braveheart largely is satisfying cinema, in part because of being one of the last of the practical effects era epics and in part because of its cast.

Like a lot of people, I've soured on Mel Gibson since his infamous anti-Semetic arrest rant. I've had no real interest in seeing or even re-watching any of his other works, but for whatever reason, this is the one that I can still somehow compartmentalize enough to get into it. (It may just be that I'm still so completely smitten with Sophie Marceau's performance.)

I was also, at the time this movie came out, reading the Green Lantern comic book. A new character was introduced, and to up the dramatic tension in a hurry, his girlfriend was murdered and stuffed in a refrigerator. This gave its name to the storytelling trope ("fridging") of using the killing of a female character as a plot device to establish a male hero's arc. At the time, I didn't know Gail Simone had coined the term, and I couldn't have consciously connected that comic book with the 1995 Best Picture winner, but I knew when I first saw Braveheart that Murran (Catherine McCormack) had been fridged and that was one of the weak spots of the film for me.

Revisiting it tonight, I confess that the conspicuousness of Murran's fridging undermined my ability to get into the entire first act - just shy of a full hour. I was never invested in Murran, but I used to accept that William Wallace (Mel Gibson) was. Now that I've studied these things more closely since my last viewing of the film, though, I'm disappointed to say that the spell has been broken.

Until tonight, I've held Braveheart in the highest esteem, always awarding it five-stars on the arbitrary star scale. Tonight, though, I've come to see that it is not greater than the sum of its parts. Some of those parts are still fantastic, but the fridging - which in turn exposes some other weaknesses to the storytelling - is also a part of it.

David O'Hara's eccentric performance as Irishman Stephen still cracks me up.

Braveheart Re-Ranked on My Flickchart (#78/1655)

Braveheart > Jurassic Park III --> #78
Braveheart > Anjelah Johnson: That's How We Do It! --> #78
Braveheart > Bridesmaids --> #78
Braveheart < Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith --> #105
Braveheart > Night Shift --> # 105
Braveheart < Bringing Out the Dead --> #130
Braveheart < Walk the Line --> #143
Braveheart < Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) --> #149
Braveheart < The Offence --> #152
Braveheart > Independence Day --> #152
Braveheart > Black Orpheus --> #152

Braveheart was re-ranked on my Flickchart to #152/1655