As we did Robert Bruce last weekend in Outlaw King, Phil was inspired to revisit Braveheart, which he loves, for his retro movie this week.
Braveheart (1995) was co-produced and directed by Mel Gibson, and he stars in the movie as William Wallace, a Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the First War of Scottish Independence in the late 13th century.
We’re back in Scotland, in 1280, and King Edward I (known as ‘Longshanks’ usually but Eddy 1 on this blog 🙂 ) has invaded Scotland. Willy Wallace is a young lad and his father and brother ride off to fight against the English and get killed, whereafter Willy is adopted by his Uncle Argyle and taken on a pilgramage through Europe where he becomes well educated and multi-lingual. (We don’t go with them.) Eddy 1 is played by Patrick McGoohan and he brings an insidious evil to the character. Uncle Argyle is played by Brian Cox, though is only in the movie for a couple of scenes.
We move on to 1297 and Eddy 1 grants his noblemen land and privileges in Scotland including ‘Prima Nocte’ which means the feudal Lord can have sexual relations with subordinate women, in particular, on their wedding nights. Willy is back in Scotland now, and falls in love with Murron MacClannough, ( Catherine McCormack ) so marries her in secret so she can’t be nabbed under the Prima Nocte thing. Unfortunately she falls foul of English soldiers who try to rape her, and tries again when she escapes the first time. But they catch her, and publicly execute her. This really upsets Willy, and he gets his clan and they slaughter the English garrison in their home town, and send another one in Lanark back to England.
Eddy 1 orders his son Eddy 2- played in wonderfully foppish manner by Peter Hanley – to stop Willy by any means necessary. Meanwhile Willy is on the rampage! With his best pal Hamish (Brendan Gleeson) by his side, Willy rebels against the English, and lots more Scottish guys come and join him. Willy leads his army into battle and wins the Battle of Stirling then gets as far as York where he destroys the city, kills Eddy 1’s nephew and sends him his severed head.
Wallace goes and sees Robert the Bruce (Angus MacFadyun) to enlist his help and he says yes, but Bruce’s Leprosy riddled Dad ( a barely recognisable Ian Holm) wants him to submit to the English as he wants his son to be King of Scotland. Meanwhile Eddy 1 sends Eddy 2’s missis Princess Isabella of France (Sophie Marceau) to negotiate with Willy. Really this is a distraction so another English Invasion force can land in Scotland. Izzy of course becomes enamoured of Willy and ends up sending her maid to him to inform him of the new invasion force. Wallace asks all the lords and Bobby Bruce to come and assist him in fighting them off, and in 1298 Eddy 1 leads the invasion force, and we then get to the Battle of Falkirk. Eddy 1 has bribed a couple of the Scottish lords Mornay and Lochlan , to leave Willy, and then as the Scots lose and the battle is over, Willy finds that Bobby Bruce has been fighting alongside the King! Bobby is unhappy at what he’s done, and tells his Dad he’ll never fight on the wrong side again.
Willy gets his revenge on Mornay and Lochlan and they die rather badly. Willy then commences a guerilla war, aided by Izzy with whomst he has an affair . In 1305 Bobby arranges a get together with Willy in Edinburgh, but unbeknownst to Bobby, his Dad has arranged the capture of Willy, and he’s hauled off to London. Bobby disowns his Dad, and Isabella whispers in the ear of the dying Eddy 1 that she’s pregnant by Willy, and his bloodline will be wiped out.
Poor Willy is brought before magistrates, refuses to submit to the king, and ends up being hung drawn and quartered. It’s a harrowing end for him.
Finally, in 1314 Bobby now the King of Scotland, and his army are at Bannockburn, in front of a ceremonial line of English troops, where they are supposed to be accepting formally, English rule. But instead, Bobby turns round, invokes Willy’s name, and leads his men to victory and freedom from English rule. (That didn’t last, sadly, and they are still stuck with us, but they keep trying to get away, so maybe one day!)
So that’s the story. Of course it’s not totally historically correct, and why would it be? It’s based on a poem “The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace” by a 15th century Scottish poet ‘Blind Harry’, and the script writer Randall Wallace (no relation!) used it to write the story. Isabella in real life was only 3 when the Battle of Falkirk happened and hadn’t met Willy let alone had a canoodle. Randall Wallace in defending his script has said, “Is Blind Harry true? I don’t know. I know that it spoke to my heart and that’s what matters to me, that it spoke to my heart.” So history doesn’t much matter when that happens I guess 🙂 . And really it didn’t, this movie won a shed load of Oscars, Mel won for Best Picture, Best Director, Randall Wallace best screenplay, John Toll for best cinematography – it was a glorious looking movie, and the landscape of Scotland looked fab, the mud and the dirt was real. And the music was quite hauntingly beautiful, even if you don’t like the movie, the soundtrack is worth getting on CD, (oops no-one does that now, I mean stream it or whatever!) composed and conducted by James Horner, with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Critic responses mostly good :- Rotten Tomatoes, “Distractingly violent and historically dodgy, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart justifies its epic length by delivering enough sweeping action, drama, and romance to match its ambition.”
Chicago Tribune’s Gene Siskel – “in addition to staging battle scenes well, Gibson also manages to recreate the filth and mood of 700 years ago.”
I’d agree with both.