directed by Mel Gibson
USA 1995

Braveheart is a curious cinematic experience for me.

Mel Gibson crafted a rousing, old-fashioned epic with big, sweeping emotions. I tried very hard to avoid crying, and I succeeded up until the very end. Then, Gibson’s voice uttered the epilogue:

“In the year of our Lord 1314,
Patriots of Scotland, Starving and Outnumbered,
Charged the Fields of Bannockburn.
They fought like Warrior Poets.
They fought like Scotsmen.
And won their Freedom.”

I lost it and sobbed through the end credits. The epilogue is as poetically simple and powerful as those Warrior Poets must’ve been. Not knowing much about Scottish history, I figured that the epilogue might’ve meant that the Scottish warriors perished.

After watching the movie, I found out that the epilogue should be understood literally--Scotland actually achieved independence from England for a short while because of the Battle of Bannockburn. This fact only heightened my appreciation of the movie because Gibson and writer William Wallace were able to turn dusty history into something lyrical.

Not so good was learning that the French princess played by Sophie Marceau actually went to England three years after William Wallace died. The movie is littered with numerous other inaccuracies. I’m someone who’s easily annoyed by factual errors, but I also realize that a fictional dramatic narrative takes liberties in order to flow smoothly.

I’ve seen Braveheart so many times that I know what the next music cue will sound like as I’m watching the movie. This is true even while I was watching this new two-disc special edition, which was the first time I’ve viewed the movie in about two or three years. My familiarity with Braveheart has made me noticed how peculiar it is--it’s one of the sloppiest major motion pictures ever (especially for one that won an Oscar for Best Picture and was nominated for Best Editing), yet its strengths completely negate its huge faults. The continuity errors during the Battle of Stirling are appalling.

1) A young guy gets shot with an arrow twice--exactly the same way. This is either literally the same take used twice or two different takes of the same action (probably the former).

2) There is almost zero continuity with regards to Mel Gibson’s movements while he’s charging across the field to fight the English. He starts off with a pickaxe, he runs across the field reaching for the sword on his back, he runs with his arms pumping at his sides, he runs while brandishing his sword, he runs with empty hands again, and he runs raising his sword above his head.

3) The extras sometimes just stand around not knowing what to do. The audio has people shouting or screaming, but the extras’ mouths are closed. Or they stop fighting, look around for someone to give them instructions, and then half-heartedly swing their weapons before dropping their arms to the side.

4) There are several shots of swords hitting people with the actors reacting as if they’re hurt, but clearly, the swords didn’t cut into them.

Sharp-eyed viewers will notice other editing errors, of which there are too many to list here. Yet, like I already wrote, the movie’s strengths--its energy, conviction, and lush music score--make it easy to gloss over the historical inaccuracies and error-riddled editing.

I find it impossible, however, to reconcile my reaction to the movie with my feelings about Mel Gibson the man. My good friend and editor Gary Tooze has encouraged me to watch movies without regard to anything outside of the TV frame, but I’ve told him that as movies are not made in vacuums, they should not be viewed in vacuums. Braveheart is clearly an expression of Gibson’s traditionalist Catholic sentiments, from praying in Latin to being tied down in a crucifixion position. The Patriot and We Were Soldiers, though directed by others, also espoused Gibson’s Catholicism (i.e. large families). All of this would not be so troubling had Gibson not made The Passion of the Christ and went on a drunken tirade accusing Jews of starting every war in history. The Passion and his drunken tirade basically summed up Gibson’s disturbed psyche--just look at the sadism to which he subjects his characters in just about every one of his movies beginning with Lethal Weapon.

I can not recommend Braveheart without feeling pangs of guilt and disgust. However, I will admit that Braveheart is a powerful motion picture. Buy it if you’re able to watch movies with blinders over your personal moral judgment.*

Yunda Eddie Feng

Posters

Theatrical Release: 24 May 1995

Reviews       More Reviews        DVD Reviews

Comparison

Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Paramount (2-disc) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Yunda Eddie Feng supplied the DVD Review

1) Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT

2) Paramount (2-disc) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

DVD Box Cover

Distribution

Paramount

Region 1 - NTSC

Paramount

Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Runtime 177 min 2:57:43.152
Video

2.40:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.90 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,681,555,732 bytes

Feature: 45,971,742,720 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.78 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

DVD

Bitrate

Blu-ray

Audio DD 5.1 English, DD 5.1 French, DD 2.0 surround Spanish Dolby TrueHD Audio English 3719 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3719 kbps / 24-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
DUBs: Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround
Subtitles Optional English, French, Spanish Optional English, French, Spanish
Features Release Information:
Studio: Paramount

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.40:1

Edition Details:
• audio commentary by Mel Gibson
• A Writer's Journey
• Alba gu Brath! The Making of Braveheart
• Tales of William Wallace
• archival interviews with the cast
• photo montage
• 2 theatrical trailers

DVD Release Date: December 18th, 2007
slim double keepcase with cardboard slipcover

Chapters 22

Release Information:
Studio: Paramount

 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,681,555,732 bytes

Feature: 45,971,742,720 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.78 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary by Mel Gibson

• Interactive Timelines—Three distinct timelines featuring a combination of video, images, text and audio that can be accessed linearly or randomly. 
Disc 2

• Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion— Topography, weapons, troop movements, and leadership data can also be accessed.

• Braveheart: A Look Back (A Company of Equals, The Sound of Laughter, The Measure of Film - 1:00:21

• Smithfield: Medieval Killing Fields (25:19)

• A Writer's Journey (21:30)
• 2 theatrical trailers (1:40 + 2:54)

Extras have Optional English, French, Spanish subtitles.


Blu-ray Release Date:
September 1st, 2009
Standard Blu-ray Case
inside cardboard box

Chapters 22

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Addition: Paramount Blu-ray - August 09':  Like the simultaneously released Gladiator Blu-ray package from Paramount - this is part of the new 'Sapphire Series' label. It also consists of two Blu-rays with the 3-hour film taking up a bloated 45.9 Gig on the first disc and the majority of extra features relegated to the second.

While I gushed extensively over the Gladiator Blu-ray this may actually look even better. I certainly think there is a greater visual superiority between it and the previous DVD transfer - that came less than 2-years ago. Colors are brighter appearing more intense and depth exists everywhere - in scene after scene. This truly must be attaining the heights of the format. Like Gladiator , Braveheart was beautifully shot with a multitude of awe-inspiring visuals. The splendid terrain of Scotland and Ireland achieve such a majestic appearance in 1080P. Background grain seems very fine and detail takes a huge leap forward from the SD. Everything is so tight and crisp it makes my screen captures often appear as high-end digital photographs. Braveheart has the majority of its scenes outdoors and the natural light embellishes the vibrancy of the palette. This really brings the film presentation to a new level. I really can't say much more than the full resolution screen captures export. It looks as good as anything I've seen on HD so far.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track at 3719 kbps is up to snuff sounding quite dynamic in the battle sequences. It may be marginally below the hypnotic video (which is no insult) but it handily blows away the previous DVD with strong separation and punchy bass. The memorable score sounds more intense and earthy. I can really find no flaws in the audio - I expect, depending on your system, the film sounded exactly like this theatrically (well, depending on what cinema you may have seen it). There are 2 foreign language DUBs and optional subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

Supplements aren't at the stratospheric level of Gladiator but there is a lot of new material here. On disc one we get the same audio commentary from Gibson that was on the previous DVDs. It's hard to fill the entire 3-hours and it often sounds like Mel is simply enjoying Braveheart at certain times. We also get Interactive Timelines. It's technical with a fair amount of menu surfing. There are three distinct timelines featuring a combination of video, images, text and audio that can be accessed linearly or randomly. You can access Production: A comprehensive chronology of the motion picture from conception through theatrical release, from a behind-the-scenes point of view. Some may wish to indulge in the Historical timelines basing itself in chronological modules feature Scotland’s greatest patriot, along with historical places, figures and events surrounding his life and struggle. The Fictional segment deals with identifying the chronological events what the film was based on.

Disc 2 offers more interactive historical data with Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion— two major Scottish battlefields, Falkirk and Bannockburn, are presented as 3D models that can be explored for further investigation into the military strategies and timetables employed in each. Topography, weapons, troop movements, and leadership data can also be accessed. An alternate playing mode will allow the story of each battle to unfold in an “automated” fashion, much like the interactive dioramas displayed at historical site museums around the world. Buffs of this material will surely be impressed. There is a hour-long docu-featurette; Braveheart: A Look Back (chaptered as 'A Company of Equals', 'The Sound of Laughter' and 'The Measure of Film'). It features new interviews with bright-eyed Mel and members of the cast and crew reminiscing about their experiences making the film and its enduring impact on cinema and their respective careers. More history with Smithfield: Medieval Killing Fields which relates the remarkable past of Smithfield, which for centuries was regularly filled with the roars of crowds, regal fanfares and rowdy games. Smithfield is also known as the site of William Wallace’s execution, along with other terrifying spectacles when heretics, rebels and criminals were put to death. We also get A Writer's Journey which is the 21.5 minute featurette with Randall Wallace as seen on the last DVD, as are the 2 theatrical trailers (1:40 + 2:54). We should note that the supplements actually have optional English, French, Spanish subtitles. The supplements are probably a little educational for some but I imagine many fans of the film are keen on the facts that are the basis for Braveheart. There are hours worth of stuff to sift through almost like visiting a museum.

Paramount are really making huge strides forward with this 'Sapphire Series'. Braveheart and Gladiator are like nothing I've been exposed to so far. It incorporates some of the best audio/video with endless and viable extras - some in HD and some being Blu-ray-interactive specific. I wasn't as big a fan of this film as I have become since viewing this transfer and wading through the extra features. Paramount have done Gibson's 14-year old film true justice and this is as strongly recommended as the Gladiator Blu-ray. The price seems like a ridiculous deal all things considered. Indulge and enjoy.

Gary Tooze

****

 

 

ON THE SCE DVD: Video: I no longer have the one-disc release, but it seems to me like the movie has been given a new color-time pass. Blues and reds are much stronger than I remember, which means that oranges and browns are also more vividly “rusty” than I anticipated. This is a sharp and generally detailed 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, but there are some light speckles throughout the entire running time.

Audio: I was very surprised by how robust the DD 5.1 English track is. I don’t know if the movie’s audio mix was “sweetened”, but the music score sounds much fuller and richer than I expected it to be. Roaring fires sound appropriately menacing, and the movie clearly deserved its two Oscar nominations (and one win) for sound; pay close attention to the sequence with William Wallace quietly riding a horse into a village on his way to a surprise attack on an English garrison. The myriad sound effects show how effective a movie can be without any dialogue distracting viewers from the pleasures of pure visuals.

You can also watch the movie with DD 5.1 French and DD 2.0 surround Spanish subtitles. Optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles as well as optional English closed captions support the audio.

Extras: The sole extra on Disc 1 is Mel Gibson’s audio commentary (ported from the first DVD release). There are long gaps as Gibson was not yet entirely comfortable with recording an audio commentary at the time, but he provides funny anecdotes and gently sarcastic comments about other violent epics following his lead.

All of the other extras are on Disc 2. The previous DVD release had one of those made-for-cable fluffy featurettes. That featurette has been replaced by several new mini-documentaries. These mini-docs mix new footage with footage from the fluffy featurette as well as previously un-seen footage.

In “A Writer’s Journey”, Randall Wallace talks about the genesis of the project and how the movie basically jumpstarted his film career.

“Alba gu Brath! The Making of Braveheart” is a three-part documentary that covers the movie from pre-production to Mel Gibson talking about viewers’ responses to the movie today.

“Tales of William Wallace” is a half-hour overview of some of the legends about William Wallace.

Next up is a collection of archival interviews with various members of the cast.

Finally, you get a photo montage and two trailers. The first trailer uses James Horner’s music for Patriot Games (a Paramount release), and the second trailer hilariously uses music from Speed (a Fox release).

--Miscellaneous--
You don’t get a chapter insert this time around, but early copies should have a cardboard slipcover.

As the color timing has been changed significantly and as the one-disc DVD has a featurette that’s not on this new set, big-time fans may want to own both editions. Casual fans will be plenty pleased with the new two-disc version.

 - Yunda Eddie Feng

 



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1) Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

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1) Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

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1) Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount (2-disc) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount (2-disc) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount (2-disc) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


 

1) Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount (2-disc) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

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Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Blu-ray
Menu: Blu-ray

 

DVD Box Cover

Distribution

Paramount

Region 1 - NTSC

Paramount

Region FREE - Blu-ray




 

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