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BRAVEHEART

Prior to its theatrical release, BRAVEHEART ($30) was not the type of movie that I would have associated with Mel Gibson- I guess that Iíve seen the MAD MAX and LETHAL WEAPON movies too many times.  Anyway, BRAVEHEART is unquestionably the greatest achievement in Gibsonís career thus far- after all; he has the Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture (as producer) to prove it. Additionally, Gibsonís inspiring performance as William Wallace, the 13th Century Scottish hero, certainly rates as his finest work in front of the camera, even if the Academy failed to recognize it.

BRAVEHEART is a motion picture that hails from that nearly forgotten art form known as "the epic." Of course, this was an ambitious undertaking for second time director Gibson, who was spreading himself awfully thin by also wearing the hats of producer and star at the same time. The filmís battle sequences have the sweep and majesty of those glorious epic films produced I the fifties and sixties, with the addition of a realistic depiction of the violent hand-to-hand warfare practiced in the 13th Century. The plot of BRAVEHEART dramatizes the life the Scottish patriot William Wallace, whose existence seems to be shaped by the tyranny of the English King Edward the Longshanks (brilliantly played by Patrick McGoohan). For those unfamiliar with history, Longshanks (Edward I) was the English King who seized power with the aid of the squabbling Scottish nobles, after the King of the Scotland died without issue. Losing everything he has ever loved, Wallace finds his breaking point and begins to fight back against English oppression. Eventually, Wallace raises an army against Longshanks in an effort to free Scotland from English rule. Despite its superb, epic battle scenes, BRAVEHEART is very much a character driven film. Gibson- the actor is amazing in his role, while Gibson- the director displays a great deal of sensitivity, eliciting truly human performances from his grand troupe of actors, who play larger than life historical characters. In addition to Gibson and McGoohan, the cast of BRAVEHEART also features Sophie Marceau, Catherine McCormack, Angus MacFadyen and Peter Hanly.

Paramount Home Entertainment has done absolutely wonderful job of transcribing BRAVEHEART to the DVD medium and has issued the film in is proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio, in addition to enhancing the presentation for playback on 16:9 displays. BRAVEHEART was filmed on location and John Tollís Academy Award winning cinematography captures both the beauty and the harshness of the landscape in equal measure. Lighting is very simple and completely naturalistic, which gives the film a very earthy quality. The transfer faithfully conveys the look of the film, which lacks the extra layer of gloss that seems to be applied to almost all Hollywood productions. Because of this, one will notice some film grain in the picture, although it never takes oneís attention away from the movieís brilliant storytelling. The image on the DVD is crisp and very well defined, as one should expect from a big budget 1990ís movie, recently transferred to the format. Colors tend to be muted and the flesh tones of the actors appear somewhat pale, which I would surmise to be historically accurate, considering the amount of rain that fell on the crew during the filmís production. Blacks are flawlessly rendered, plus the level of shadow detail and depth in the image are truly amazing, especially when one considers the realistic looking nighttime scenes that depict an era centuries before electric lighting. There are a few blemishes on the film elements, which is about the only flaw that I can find on this otherwise terrific video transcription. BRAVEHEART runs nearly three hours, yet solid authoring prevents digital compression artifacts from becoming discernable. 

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a very good mix, which maintains a very natural sonic presence. Sound effects are well spread across all of the discrete channels and never seem artificially sweetened. The soundstage has a very open quality, with very precise channel separation. Surrounds channels are effectively deployed, but rarely call attention to themselves. Dialogue reproduction is quite good and maintains full intelligibility, I would imagine the actors had to rein in their "Scottish accents" to some degree for that purpose. The bass channel is very solid and adds a great deal of rumble to the battle scenes, as well as reinforcing the hoof beats of the horses. James Hornerís beautiful score is well integrated into the mix, yet it maintains the clarity of its orchestrations, which almost makes it a separate entity. English and French Dolby Surround soundtrack are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.

Through the basic interactive menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well several supplemental features. Mel Gibson provides a running audio commentary that gives fans a good deal of insight into the production of BRAVEHEART. Gibsonís laid back and amusing personality rises to the surface and makes this commentary as entertaining as it is informative. Although it requires another three-hour investment (and there are some silent patches), listening to Mel Gibson talk about BRAVEHEART is time well spent. The DVD also includes A Filmmakerís Passion: The Making of Braveheart. This thirty-minute documentary takes one on location for a look at the production and includes interviews with the filmís director and stars. Additionally, the documentary discusses the real William Wallace and how much was actually known about this 13th Century Scottish hero. Two theatrical trailers fill out the DVDís supplements.

BRAVEHEART is a superb motion picture that is well served by Paramount Home Entertainmentís solid DVD presentation. This movie is a winner and the disc is a winner. Absolutely recommended.

 
BRAVEHEART 


Braveheart

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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