|Category||Historical Fiction||Disc One:
Audio Commentary - Mel Gibson (Actor/Director)
|Running Time||170:23 Minutes|
|RSDL/Flipper||Disc One: RSDL (99:31)
Disc Two: No/No
Fox Home Video
|Case||Dual Transparent Amaray|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
However, when we supress the historical misgivings of the film in spite of the fact that they are sometimes quite grave, what we have left is a stunning epic which offers a flawed alternate perspective on Scotland's war for independence. The film begins with young William Wallace (James Robinson) bidding his father and brother farewell as they go to fight a battle against the British occupying army. Both the father and brother are killed in battle, leaving young William in the care of his uncle, Argyle (Brian Cox), who teaches young William to use his mind as well as the fabled claymore. From there, we fast forward a couple of decades and see William as an adult, now played by Mel Gibson, returning to the village he lived in as a child. We are soon reintroduced to his childhood friends, Hamish (Brendan Gleeson), and Murron (Catherine McCormack). As the film has it, William and Murron are married in secret, with Murron being killed by the village's English sherriff for fighting off an assault from an English soldier. In reality, William's wife, who was actually named Marian (the name change was effected in order to avoid confusion with the Robin Hood heroine of the same name), was killed when English soldiers chased William home. In any case, William comes back to town in a very unhappy mood, proceeding to kill all of the English soldiers in the village, which in turn ignites a rebellion. Meanwhile, the aging King Edward the First (Patrick McGoohan) is continually disappointed with his son, Prince Edward (Peter Hanly), whom he arranges to be married to Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau). As the film progresses, we are shown several battles that are depicted inaccurately, and the growing division between the clans of Scotland. It is actually the division between the clans, rather than the technological and numerical superiority of the English forces, that resulted in the eventual stalemate in the Scottish-English conflict.
What makes this film special is some stunning cinematography by John Toll (which actually survives well in spite of the Pan & Scan butchery of the VHS version, although there is one shot early in the film that fails to make sense outside of its proper aspect ratio), and some of the best-looking battle scenes in the history of sword-swinging epics. Indeed, what separates this film from most others that try to depict the England of the Middle Ages is the fact that there are no poncy men reciting patently bad Shakespearian dialogue while waving fencing foils around. The Scottish claymore was specifically designed to cut through things, leaving a wrecked, bloody mess behind, as opposed to being used to stab one's opponent. Braveheart manages to reflect such facts in its battles accurately enough to have earned a place in the Internet Movie Database's top 250 films, sitting comfortably at number sixty-five at the time of writing. If you don't mind a rather distorted view of history in the context of some amazing battle sequences, then Braveheart is definitely for you.
The transfer is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. As I have already mentioned, there is one shot early on in the film which simply doesn't make any sense when it is cropped to the television ratio, so this was an essential requirement. The transfer is almost always razor-sharp, with only an occasional noticeable loss of detail in the background at an inopportune moment. For the most part, the compression is completely transparent, with fine details to behold at every moment. The shadow detail of the transfer is somewhat variable, ranging from average to good, depending on the scene in question. During the wedding, a number of details are lost in the darkness, but at the sacking of York, there are all sorts of variable shades in the darkness to behold. There is no low-level noise at any time in the film.
The colour saturation is where this transfer really excels, leaving other formats I've seen of this film in its wake. All of this film was shot in such a way as to capture two kinds of location: the wilderness of a country that inspires many a great song, and the insides of dank, slimy castles. As a result, many shades of green, blue, and the odd splash of red for good measure, are all captured in this film for the transfer to retain, and the transfer retains every shade of these colours without skipping a beat.
MPEG artefacts were not a problem with this transfer, in spite of the fact that the film's length and its battle sequences would push the available disc space to its absolute limit. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some aliasing in one knight's armour at 44:08, but this was the only instance of aliasing that I noticed. Given how many suits of chain mail, or other aliasing-prone objects such as barred windows there are in this film, this was something of a pleasant surprise. Sadly, film artefacts are something of a problem with this transfer, making me question the exact age of the interpositive used to create this DVD. For a good example of this problem, take a look at the top right corner of the frame at 45:45, and many subsequent shots during this sequence. Black film artefacts stain the picture quite badly for a second or two in many sequences such as this, and they were somewhat distracting to look at. If it weren't for this one problem, however, this would be the best transfer of a three-hour film this Region has so far seen.
This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place between Chapters 12 and 13, at 99:31. There is a noticeable and somewhat jarring pause at this point, and the placement is off by a few frames, but the layer change is otherwise as good as you could ask for.
The original English dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, but there are some limits placed upon this by how well you understand Scottish, French, and Irish accents. Much of the speech in this film is rendered with one of these accents, and while none of the Scottish accents reach into Billy Connolly territory, they do occasionally pose a challenge. Funnily enough, the most difficult lines to fully understand in this film, at least for me, are the first ones uttered by King Edward (Patrick McGoohan). There are no discernable problems with audio sync, although there was the occasional line when I thought I could see lips moving around different words. However, repeated testing of the suspect passages only found the occasional instance of suspect ADR.
The score music in this film is credited to James Horner, and an especially inspired effort it is, too. I've never really thought much of Horner's compositions, largely because of his work with James Cameron, but this particular score made me forget that for the duration of this film. The score switches rather frequently between the traditional arrangements of strings, and some rather upbeat motifs using Celtic instruments at the appropriate times. If there is one criticism I can make of the score, it is that it simply isn't brutal enough during the battle sequences, although I am sure very few others will feel the same way.
The surround channels are used to great effect, supporting the music whenever it appears, and lending a hand to the sounds of running horses and flying arrows when required. A number of directional sound effects are used at all times, with even the quiet dialogue sequences accompanied by the sounds of bagpipes, rustling leaves, and many other ambient effects that seem to live and breathe around the viewer. The surround field is truly immersive, but I feel it is a pity that we don't even get a lower-performance DTS soundtrack with this transfer (DTS was one of the formats the film was exhibited in theatres with). In spite of this, what we have makes excellent demonstration material.
The subwoofer had a whale of a time supporting the sound effects, especially the march of cavalry, and it did so without becoming overbearing or conspicuous, even if that was really the whole idea. Overall, this is an excellent soundtrack that truly lives and breathes, while helping the film itself to do so.
The video quality is very good, but could have been reference material if not for a noticeable problem with film artefacts.
The audio quality is excellent, providing a great example of how to take a battle from the screen and make it breathe in the comfort of one's home.
The extras are sufficient, but like the video quality, a little more effort would have been appreciated.
© Dean McIntosh (my
bio sucks... read it anyway)
November 16, 2000.
|DVD||Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output|
|Display||Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode, using composite and S-video inputs, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built In (Amplifier)|
|Amplification||Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer|