Director - Mel Gibson
I have to say, that the initial outlook for this film was not good. As it began with Wallace's childhood I found it pretty shit.... quite contrived in its set up. I looked down at the DVD....
Luckily, Brian Cox comes and interrupts proceedings with his crazy one eye and then we skip to the future and to Gibbo himself playing Braveheart. In a role which probably eclipses all his other roles. Even What Women Want
So times are heard. And despite the Scottish having perfect teeth times are tough. The English seem very rapey, and the Scots are just supposed to lie back and take it. This is all thanks to King Edward Longshanks who comes off as a cruel and merciless tyrant. Cracking out savage laws like Primae Noctis (never used by the ACTUAL King Edward) and coming out with some marvellously cutting one-liners:
Arrows cost money. Use up the Irish. The dead cost nothing.
Whilst Edward I is painted as a cruel bastard, his son is painted as a bit of a useless fop.... and the film heavily implies some kind of gay subtext. Particularly with Philip - Edward II's high councillor. But hey... its in Wikipedia too, so it must be true. These two men use their respective cowardice and tyranny to leave Scotland a dangerous and cruel place to live.
It isn't long before the Scots have had enough and William Wallace begins to lead a revolution.
Finally..... we get to the film's bread and butter. The fighting. It seems (if we look at his directorial career) that Mel Gibson has a lot of interest in violence and punishment. Both The Passion and Apocalypto having some savage scenes. Here it is a lot more restrained, and a lot more joyous as limbs are hacked, throats cut and bodies impaled. But it is all happening to those bastardy dastardly English.... so its ok!
The violence is handled really well, the fights are visceral and the battles feel real. You also begin to see Wallace's tactical mind. How it was tactics which helped, rather than strength. In fact, even when we get to the end, and a 10 - 12 minute long torture scene.... most of it happens off camera. Instead we focus on Wallace's face and the searing pain.
There are some moments that don't fit with the tone of the film. Mainly to do with the French. Princess Isabella's infatuation and relationship with Wallace just feels wrong and unnatural throughout.... it also didn't happen. Likewise Isabella's handmaiden just turns up to make saucy French Jokes.
Robert the Bruce also comes out looking like a bit of a whiney pathetic coward for most of the film. Scared of his psoriasis addled father and gullible to the end. Again, that didn't seem right...
It just felt that other strong characters were being weakened so that Mel Gibson good look better as Wallace and that women had to fall in love with Wallace so that Gibson could his end away.
For all its triumphs (and it is a very enjoyable film) - it just felt too much like a vanity project to me.
Saying that - Brendan Gleeson's Hamish is a fucking bear of a legend throughout