Braveheart 4K Blu-ray Review
Enjoyment and fulfilment from beginning to end
Braveheart 4K Film Review
It's all for nothing if you don't have freedomMel Gibson’s 1995 Academy Award winning epic, Braveheart, is a romantic fiction, cleverly scripted, edited and directed to wring the last drop of emotion from an easily identifiable story: that of an aggrieved freedom fighter, standing up for what he believes. Whilst it has historic record on which to base itself, the events, characters and outcomes are all only loosely based on fact, Hollywood has never let the truth get in the way of a good story, but Braveheart barely pays it lip service. However, when viewed as a fiction, it plays its hand very well.
As told the story revolves around the tyranny of King Edward I, called Longshanks, and his battle with the Scots to keep them subjugated and the emergence of William Wallace, a commoner whose righteous indignation at the treatment of his country's people (told by the near rape, and then murder of his own wife) unites the Scots and takes the fight south to win the freedom of the country. Director Gibson spends the first hour building the relationship and character of Wallace as the good righteous man, and when tragedy strikes, the audience feels the pain and anguish and rightly follows this aggrieved man, like so many of his countrymen, into war for justice. It’s pure black and white, villain and hero storytelling, and works so well due to the time taken to bring about the characterisation.
Add to this the stirring and emotive score by James Horner, some wonderful cinematography by John Toll (Thin Red Line, Last Samurai, Cloud Atlas) and a commitment by some very talented actors to tell the best story they can, it is little wonder it won so many award nominations and walked away with a few, including Best Picture. Cynically, it is actually quite an obvious film, it plays its beats perfectly, has clear lines drawn and never puts a step wrong; and you know sometimes that is all you want from a film – enjoyment and fulfilment from beginning to end.
Braveheart 4K Picture QualityBraveheart was shot using Panavision Panaflex Platinum cameras on 35mm film. This 2018 UHD release was made using the original camera negative which was scanned at 4K resolution and has been utilised for this Ultra HD Blu-ray release. The disc presents a native 4K 3840 x 2160p resolution image in the widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio, and uses 10-bit video depth, a Wide Colour Gamut (WCG), High Dynamic Range, and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec for HDR10. We reviewed the Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Braveheart on a Panasonic 65DX902B Ultra HD 4K TV with a Panasonic DMP-UB400 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
The Blu-ray of Braveheart has always been terrific, a wonderfully filmic image with plenty of detail and rich colouring. This new scan tops it easily. It retains that wonderful filmic look, but increases the detail and has a richly rewarding colour palette that brings out the natural radiance of the piece: it is gorgeous.
A wonderfully filmic image
Detail is perfect, skin texture, whether covered with mud or war paint, clothing weaves, whether course hessian or hardened leather armour, are so keen to the eye it is amazing, the many Irish vistas (substituting for Scotland) are simply wonderful, the edges of the grassland, or rocky outcrops. When there are actual Scottish landscape views, the image is tremendous. The grim of the Scottish villages, or the ornate Castles of England are perfectly seen.
Colours are amazing, there is a new richness and vibrancy to the palette that the Blu-ray simply cannot replicate; check out the royal court wear, Princess Isabelle’s deep red clothing, Robert the Bruce’s or King Edward’s, the blue of the war paint or the sky, the green of the fields, the red of the blood. The intensity of the oranges in the fires, and the grade of the blue in the skies.
Black level is equally as impressive, there is a new sense of depth to the screen, shadows are brought out more, and there is more punch to the image. The white end of the scale is just as good, see the glint of armour, or off jewellery, as well as losing no detail in the highlights.
Digitally there are no compression issues, nor banding and the source is as clean as a whistle and maintains its grain structure. A blistering picture.
Braveheart 4K Sound QualityThe Dolby Atmos surround track does the visuals justice and is a perfect accompaniment. It has a wonderful sense of separation, this is especially true of the open spaces, with a single horse galloping through trees, for example, where it feels like it is in the open. Village life is brought to life with mud splats, chatter, fires and weather. Thunder rumbles overhead, while hooves trample below. At its most visceral during the battle scenes, Stirling Bridge is astonishing in its depiction of brutality; shouts, thumps, decapitations, sword swipes, the crunch of bone, the splitting of skulls: from all around – you are in the melee.
Dialogue is clean and clear, always audible and sounds very natural. Horner’s sweeping score is so well layered into the mix it, at times, seems to float. Bass is strong and robust, and used to fill out plenty of the more bombastic effects, though thunder and hooves fair extremely well as well. But I find it is with the simple things that are are so rewarding, the crackle of fire, the trickle of water, the fall of rain. A cracking, all-encompassing track.
Braveheart 4K ExtrasThe extras have all be available before and are here replicated on the UHD and the included 2 Blu-rays.
Audio Commentary – With director Mel Gibson, who chats, rather dryly, about all elements of the production.
Audio Commentary – As Above.
William Wallace's World PiP – As it sounds, read up on historical facts, see behind the scenes footage and fictional elements, during playback of the film.
Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion - Learn more about the real history behind the film (well, four of the major scenes) via CGI and descriptive narration in this interactive feature.
Alba Gu Brath! The Making of Braveheart – Hour's worth of documentary, looking at what made the film such a success, its production, themes, editing and shooting, etc. Split into 3 parts: Reviving a Genre, The Heat of Battle and Worth the Fight.
Archival Interviews - With the cast of the film.
Tales of William Wallace – Looks at the legend, who he really was and the fictional accounts.
A Writer’s Journey – 20 minutes with Randall Wallace as he discusses his involvement, style, collaborations and what he wanted to achieve.
Braveheart 4K VerdictEven though, Braveheart, is so far from the truth it might just as well be called fiction, it is nevertheless a rip-roaring ride through medieval Scotland following a freedom fighter on his righteous quest to rid his country of tyrannical subjugation. By balancing a strong script with in-depth characterisation, spending time to build relationships and environments, the audience is pulled along the agonising path, empathising and enjoying it all the way. It is little wonder the film won plenty of award nominations and even picked up the Best Picture Oscar in 1995.
As a 4K UHD set, the package from Fox is great; the native 4K picture is awash with detail, rich, intense colouring beyond that which a Blu-ray can achieve, and spectacular blacks that give depth and presence to the wonderfully filmic image. The Dolby Atmos surround track matches the visuals perfectly, being engaging, immersive, well separated and sweeping. The extras are all encompassing, even if that have all been available before.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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