The next war movie to take a look at thanks to the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book is this epic stunner from 1995, helmed and starring Mel Gibson, illustrating that yes, the man may have his problems, but can tell an amazing story.
The tale of William Wallace (Gibson) gets the big-screen treatment, and it blends an emotional love story, featuring love won and loss, with Murron (Catherine McCormack) and a man who wants to live in peace, but is driven not only to fight for himself but for his whole country, Scotland, against the English King, Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan).
When this movie came out, I could not get enough of it, the epic scope of it on the big screen was simply stunning, and the beautiful score by James Horner, completely captivated me, and was probably on repeat from the moment I bought the CD.
Even now, the film remains stunning, and completely engaging, with a stellar cast including Brendan Gleeson, Sophie Marceau, Brian Cox, Angus Macfadyen, Tommy Flanagan and Alun Armstrong.
The film takes its time, letting the viewer soak up the beautiful landscapes, and sink into the characters and their relationships, which sees alliances, betrayals, and of course, battles. And the battles are brilliantly choreographed, and intensely brutal. It is really no surprise that this film walked away with Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Makeup at that year’s Oscars.
I haven’t watched it since the 90s, so it was really something to sink back into it and watch the story unfold again. It also made me remember when Gibson was at the top of his game. This would be a movie I would throw on in the background while I did other things, but would often find myself stopping, and watching for extended periods of time, until whatever task I was working on was completely forgotten.
Everything just works in this film, the performances are fantastic, and the story beats are nicely paced out so that even clocking in at three hours, the film just roars by. It remains an amazing achievement to watch, and even though so much of it has now found its way into popular culture, it still has the powers to elicit an emotional reaction from me.
And that, to me, is the mark of a great film. No matter the personal politics of those who made it.
There are so many things I love about this film, but the two things that continue, and have always stood out for me, are the locations, and that beautiful score, a perfect marriage of image and sound.
There has been so much written about this film, that I am well aware that I am bringing nothing new to its discussion, simply my endorsement of it being a fantastic film, worthy of the appellation, epic, and still amazingly engaging.