I’m a fairly recent comer to all things high definition. Earlier this year I picked up an Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive because it was cheap and the cheap movies offered an economical way to break into HD movies without breaking the bank. Since then, I have built a HTPC with an HD-DVD/Blu-Ray combo drive which allows me to enjoy both formats. This week, one of the most anticipated BR releases finally made it to store shelves, Braveheart.
Some thoughts on the movie:
There is a good reason why, fifteen years after its initial release, Braveheart has become a sort of modern classic. The story manages the delicate balance of being both epic and very personal. It is a story of love, revenge, betrayal, and freedom and it explores each of those points in such a way that the viewer cannot help but be transported to early 14th century Scotland and drawn into the the story that is often brutal and also staggeringly beautiful.
Mel Gibson brings William Wallace to life with a nuanced performance that will make you forget you watching him and make you believe you are watching William Wallace. He displays the gamut of emotion in a way that makes the viewer hurt when he hurts, feel betrayed when he is betrayed, and feel victory when he is victorious. Gibson also does a fine job of showing the evolution of Wallace from a man fighting for the revenge of a lost love to a man fighting for the freedom of the country and people that he loves.
Ultimately, Braveheart endures because at its heart is a story that people can identify with. It is not just a sword and sandals epic with snazzy battle scenes and pretty cinematography, it is a story of love. Men often get a bad rap from women because we tend not to like the “love stories” that women like (i.e. the dreaded Sandra Bullock RomCom). Well, the truth is, men simply identify more with a story where there is more at stake than choosing an Armani handbag over a date with Fabio. Deep down I think most men hope that if push came to shove and if the families we love and freedoms that we love were threatened, that we too would be willing to cast aside fear of personal harm and do what is necessary to protect those things we hold dear. You see, ladies, Braveheart is a love story that puts any RomCom to shame. Why? Because the stakes are real and ultimately William Wallace dies because of the love he has for his slain wife and his desire and love for/of freedom.
I often have a difficult time picking out one movie to call my absolute favorite. After watching Braveheart on Blu-Ray and seeing the incredible power and beauty of the movie again for the first time, I think I can now say that Braveheart is it. Sure other movies might win out on sheer entertainment value, but Braveheart is the perfect mix of story, acting, setting, cinematography, and soundtrack and that is why it is one of the rare modern movies that I believe will stand the test of time to become a true classic.
The Blu-Ray of Braveheart is the reason why I started buying HD movies. For a film that was made fifteen years ago, the transfer is virtually pristine. Yeah, there is a little dirt and grain here and there, but it never detracts from the movies and simply reminds you that you are watching a movie that was made before everything started being shot digitally.
The Scottish setting of the movie comes alive with incredible clarity. The lush greens and blue skies will have you wishing you too could go run across a Scottish mountain and look down on the distant lochs and valleys.
All I can say is if you have a Blu-Ray player, you must own this movie for the picture quality alone. This will quickly become your go to movie when you want to show off your home theater system thanks to the stellar picture quality of this release.
Braveheart has arguably the most beautiful and moving soundtrack ever put to a movie. Some of the most poignant scenes of the movie are told without a word from the actors with the soundtrack and facial expressions providing an incredible emotional impact (one of these scenes is the wedding early in the film where the English come to claim the “right” of Prima Nocta. It is an incredibly gripping scene and not a word can be heard as the soundtrack and facial expressions tell the story better than any words could).
I can’t really speak to the quality of the soundtrack since I rip my Blu-Rays to my HTPC and, while I maintain Blu-Ray picture quality in my rips, I don’t do it with the sound. This is largely to help save space on my computer and also if I really want to get the full sound experience I would have to upgrade my five year old (and it was low-end when I bought it) surround system and I would probably watch it from the disc anyway.
That said, James Horner’s soundtrack is a masterpiece and a large part of what makes the movie work. It is perfectly matched to the scenes of the movie and I challenge you not be moved when you hear the soundtrack as a young Murron hands a young William a purple thistle at the burial of his father and brother or during the secret wedding ceremony of William and Murron.
This Blu-Ray is a must own. Just go buy it. After you buy it, watch it and be inspired by the powerful story of love and freedom that have helped turn Braveheart into a modern classic.