Braveheart Blu-ray Review

by Casimir Harlow
Movies & TV Review

12

Braveheart Blu-ray Review
SRP: £24.79

Picture

Braveheart comes out as the clear winner of the two leading Sapphire series Blu-ray releases when you look at its technical side. Detail is fantastic, especially when you consider the age of the production. There is only a little noticeable softness, with no noise, no unintentional grain and minor digital defects. They really have done a wonderful job at polishing up the video for this release, as I have seen the previous versions and they simply do not compare to this new 1080p High Definition rendition. Captured in its original and broad theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the cinematography comes across in all its glory, the epic battle sequences and notable location shots all coming to life here on Blu-ray. The colour scheme is still distinguished as being quite dour and restrained - perhaps to reflect the wet Scottish setting and emphasise the poor struggle of these villagers and relatively simple landowners - but it is all rendered in an authentic way, lush greens, realistic crimson blood and the bright blues of the fictional war-paint carried by the Scottish warriors. Blacks are solid and allow for decent night or low-lit scenes and overall this is a thoroughly excellent benchmark transfer, reference quality - at least in terms of back-catalogue releases - and up there with some of the better recently produced movies that have come out on the format.
Braveheart

Sound

We also get a superior Dolby TrueHD track to accompany this movie, the uncompressed soundtrack surely presenting the film in the best way yet. Dialogue is clear, from the whispered personal moments to the rousing battle speeches, largely taking over the fronts and centre channels wherever appropriate, although the roaring armies and crowds do spill out to the surrounds to give us a suitably immersive atmosphere. Effects are perfectly represented, from the subtle nuances that give you a feel for the Scottish environment, to the limb-lopping battle sequences and momentous clashes. The score is a moving affair by James Horner, totally in line with the rip-roaring nature of the period epic, and it too allows the surrounds some significant life, and even broaches the LFE channel. This is a superb, highly immersive offering, again a superior example of what Blu-ray High Definition media can offer.
Braveheart

Extras

We get a 2-disc lavish set of Extras for this release. Accompanying the movie, we get two main runtime extras, a full-length Audio Commentary by the Director and star, Mel Gibson, as well as a Braveheart Interactive Timeline. The Commentary is quite a quiet, contemplative affair, Gibson softly spoken throughout, taking you through his work in a fairly vague, reflective fashion - rather than giving you the caffeine-induced information blitz that perhaps you need for a comprehensive commentary. At least a little passion and gusto would have made it more engaging, although Gibson's natural charm generally comes across as he tells us about the cold Scottish locations, the various cast members and their backgrounds, and the lengths they went to to make the cattle look authentic for the period. To his credit, he does attempt to highlight much of the cinematic exaggeration that pervades his movie - the different bagpipes used, the insertion of the horrendous primae noctus decree - although he generally passes it all off as being perfectly acceptable to make the movie more entertaining, never appearing to take notice of the effect it had.


The Interactive Timeline streams pop-up options through the course of the movie, allowing you to access various trivia elements from either the real history of William Wallace, the fictional story of the movie, or the history of the production. It goes some way to correlating the truth with the legend portrayed, which makes this more than your average trivia track, although it is not quite as good as those Maximum Movie Mode tracks offered by Synder's Watchmen and 300.


On the Second disc we get all the meaty Background Featurettes. What fans will really lap up is the new Documentary, an hour long affair entitled Braveheart: A Look Back, and split into three parts: A Company of Equals, The Sound of Laughter and The Measure of a Film, looking at putting together this project, the fun they had on set and filming the epic, respectively. We get plenty of Behind the Scenes information, lots of Cast and Crew Interview segments, a few fun anecdotes - often about the pranks Gibson played on set (a habit he is notorious for) - as well as some nice technical insight into staging the battle sequences and maintaining a period feel. This is a comprehensive offering, interestingly structured (they usually just take us pre-, production and then post-) and thoroughly engaging.


The Tales of William Wallace Featurette takes a half-hour look at the facts and fiction associated with the Scottish hero. The information in this offering, ported from the last SD-DVD special edition, is now largely covered in a much more accessible fashion by the Interactive Timeline pop-up facility, making this a slightly redundant but nonetheless welcome (at least in terms of completeness) addition. It is marginally overlong, yet still not comprehensive, and is simply not as thought-provoking as a controversial film like this deserves.


A Writer's Journey, also ported from the aforementioned DVD, covers the life of Randall Wallace, the writer of this fictionalised account of his ancestor William Wallace's life. It is interesting to hear how he did not even know about the Scottish legend until the mid-eighties, when he happened across the statue of Wallace, noted the name and started researching the man. Considering Randall has openly admitted that the story he created for the film was more based on a fictional poem about Wallace than on fact, it is somewhat difficult to see his research as being even in the realms of thorough.


The Dimensional Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion Feature is a bit of a gimmick really, but an enjoyable one nonetheless, offering you Interactive Maps of the key battlefields, complete with computer-generated projections of how the battles might have played out. The decisive battle of Bannockburn (ten years after the death of Wallace) is perhaps the most interesting of the momentous historical milestones on offer here.


Smithfield: Medieval Killing Fields Featurette looks at the history of Smithfield, the notorious location of the public execution of numerous individuals charged with treason, and the place where William Wallace was hanged, drawn and quartered. Finally we get the Theatrical Trailer for the main feature, as well as a bunch of previews on startup.
Braveheart
Like Spartacus and Gladiator, Braveheart remains one of the best of Hollywood's period epics, carrying that trademark underdog tale of against-the-odds uprising in a time of oppression. It has superior battle scenes, colourful characters brought to life by memorable performances and a powerful story that engages for the entirety of its well-paced runtime. Unfortunately it also stands out as being one of Hollywood's worst offenders in the realms of historical inaccuracy, holding itself out to be more real than fiction, and seemingly glorifying the tale of William Wallace beyond obvious Hollywood entertainment purposes, clearly tipping it into the realms of political provocation. It is a shame that this seems like another example of Gibson's bigotry spilling out into his professional life, as it also marks arguably his most accomplished work.


This spectacular Blu-ray release - with possibly the best video and audio that I have come across this year and a whole disc packed with worthy extras: both thorough, honest and informative in their presentation of the making of this epic - is one of the flagship vehicles for Paramount's new Sapphire Series (alongside the disappointing Gladiator release) and easily the definitive version of this movie. Fans should have had this on pre-order, a must-have addition to their collections, and newcomers should consider it a worthy investment - so long as they are aware of its dangerous perversion of history, this remains Hollywood period action-epic at its grandest. Highly recommended.

Scores

Movie

.
.
8

Picture Quality

10

Sound Quality

10

Extras

.
.
8

Overall

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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