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Braveheart is a 1995 epic historical drama film directed by and starring Mel Gibson. The film was written for the screen and then novelized by Randall Wallace. Gibson portrays William Wallace, a 13th century Scottish warrior who gained recognition when he came to the forefront of the First War of Scottish Independence by opposing King Edward I of England (portrayed by Patrick McGoohan), who was also known by the nickname "Longshanks". The film won five Academy Awards at the 68th Academy Awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director, and was nominated for an additional five. In the 13th century, after several years of political unrest, Scotland is invaded and conquered by King Edward I of England (known as "Longshanks") (McGoohan). Young William Wallace witnesses the treachery of Longshanks, survives the death of his father and brother, and is taken abroad by his uncle where he is educated. Years later, Longshanks grants his noblemen land and privileges in Scotland, including Primae Noctis, the right of the lord to take a newly married Scottish woman into his bed on the wedding night.
Once upon a time, no one could have conceived that Mel Gibson could pull off the lead role in a dazzling, epic, historical adventure-thriller-romance, let alone direct it. But he did, making Braveheart a vastly entertaining and powerful film and winning a boatload of Oscars in the process.
Here, Gibson plays Scottish hero William Wallace, a Scotsman with simple roots who finds himself thrust into a role as leader of the Scottish revolt against England in the late 13th century. After the despicable King Edward the Longshanks (Edward I) decrees that English nobles will have the right to sexual relations with all newly-wed Scottish women, the revolution is set in motion. Wallace takes up the cause, only to find himself facing incredible odds against a superior English army and fighting Scottish nobles who want to negotiate peace instead of fight. In fact, it's the nobles who turn out to be the bigger obstacle.
The film is exquisite in its melding of romance, political intrigue, and some of the most effective (and gory) battle scenes you've ever seen. At the forefront is the surprisingly capable portrayal of Wallace by Gibson, who comes off as such an awesome Everyman hero that he makes Rob Roy look like a wuss. Also, the film is so effective at making the English seem so overwhelmingly evil--really evil--that the audience is nearly ready to rush the screen.
Thematically, Braveheart explores the definitions of honor and nobility, reinforcing what we've always known: that true nobility is not the result of your birthright, but that it arises from the way you live your life. It's an excellent reminder that stays with you long after the film is over, and that is all too rare in Hollywood.