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Paramount Home Video presents
Braveheart (Special Collector's Edition) (1995)

"It's all for nothing if you don't have freedom."
- William Wallace (Mel Gibson)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: January 08, 2008

Stars: Mel Gibson
Other Stars: Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Catherine McCormack, Angus MacFadyen
Director: Mel Gibson

MPAA Rating: R for (brutal medieval warfare)
Run Time: 02h:57m:32s
Release Date: December 18, 2007
UPC: 097361313948
Genre: epic

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

After a recent, racist, sexist, profanity-laced drunken tirade, Mel Gibson has been called many things over the last couple of years. One thing he can't be called, however, is a hack director. Despite mixed reaction to his latest opus, Apocalypto, that film is at worst, ambitious and beautiful to look at. Still, the true measure of Gibson's talent behind the camera can be garnered from one film, 1995's Braveheart, which would go on to win the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars (among others) the following year. Despite years of enjoying the 2000 single-disc edition, Paramount is unleashing this new, Braveheart: Special Collector's Edition on us, and just in time for the holiday gift-giving season.

William Wallace (Gibson) is a peaceful man, living with the love of his life in the wooded hills of Scotland. This dream of a life is rudely interrupted by a group of killers who murder his family and leave Wallace for dead. Seeking revenge at first, he winds up leading a group of resistance fighters against the evil King Edward I (Patrick McGoohan), and his large army. His is a tale of the quest for freedom, regardless of the cost, as the legend of William Wallace extends far beyond his most famous moniker, Braveheart.

Over 10 years after its theatrical release, this epic masterpiece still holds up. From the opening camera pan across the Scottish hills to the tear-jerking finale that is, at times, extremely difficult to sit through, Gibson's tight direction grabs us and never lets go. He rightfully chooses substance over style for the most part, focusing on bringing this compelling (mostly factual) story to the screen. Despite a three-hour running time, the pace is always quick, and there's rarely a dull moment, as we're always either listening to crisply-written dialogue, watching hearts being broken, or blood splattering the camera during exciting, often never-ending, battle scenes.

Gibson also gets excellent performances out of his talented cast, including a duo of lovely ladies: Sophie Marceau and Catherine McCormack. McGoohan simply oozes pure evil as the King responsible for Wallace's drive for freedom, but the real standout among the supporting players is Angus MacFadyen as Robert the Bruce. Gibson, the actor, embodies William Wallace as seemingly no one else could, providing just the right amount of toughness and rage to capture the character's freedom-fighting aspects, and just enough emoting to deal with his great losses and heartache. He was only nominated for an Oscar as a director, but it's easy to argue that Gibson being slighted by the Academy in the Best Actor character was highway robbery.

"Double-dipping" aside, the real puzzling factor surrounding this new DVD edition is the question of why Paramount is going this new, 2-disc route instead of bowing it on HD DVD instead. This is one of Paramount's bigger catalog titles, and having it available in High Definition could be a huge factor in not only separating HD DVD from Blu-ray in the HD format war, but it could have given a huge boost to hi-def DVD sales in general. Instead, we get this release, which will please the film's fans with upgraded video and a few more extras. Still, the lack of a hi-def disc prevents this new set from being more than just a missed opportunity.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in its original 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen format, the film has never looked better, thanks to a brand new transfer. The images are more detailed than they've ever been, with amazing sharpness, along with solid black and shadow levels throughout. The colors are bright and vivid, with immaculate, lush hues that are, above all, realistic. Any dirt and grain apparent on previous transfers have been almost entirely eliminated, making for a blemish-free presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 isn't a marked improvement over the previous DVD's audio, but, given the high quality of that transfer, the lack of a new mix isn't a bad thing. While the entire sound field isn't active at all times, the rear speakers do spring to life during the battle sequences, providing the viewer with an enveloping, often intense, listening experience. The dialogue is always crisp and clear, as well, remaining in the center channel throughout, but blending in nicely with the rest of the track.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
3 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Mel Gibson
Packaging: Keep Case
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Archival Interviews with the Cast of Braveheart
  2. Photo Montage
Extras Review: Most of the extras are on Disc 2, but Disc 1 does feature an audio commentary by Mel Gibson. He talks about some very interesting subject matter, but the problem is he speaks far too infrequently. When we do hear his voice, it's almost always informative and engaging, as he truly loves his film, and rightfully so.

The second disc begins with A Writer's Journey, a 21-minute piece during which writer Randall Wallace talks about how learning of his family history was so important in shaping the film. We also get clips from the film to watch during further discussion of the script and problems that arose while it was being written.

Alba gu Brath! The Making of Braveheart runs for 50 minutes and is an extremely comprehensive look at this modern classic film. We hear from Gibson, Wallace, producers Bruce Davey and Alan Ladd, Jr., along with unit manager Kevin de la Noy, cinematographer John Toll, and 2nd unit director/stunt coordinator Mic Rodgers, as they focus on the production as a whole, touching on as many aspects as possible.

Next, is Tales of William Wallace, a 30-minute study of the "real" William Wallace and what he meant to the history of Scotland. This piece features more cast and crew interviews, which help to teach us about the man behind the film.

We then get a collection of archival interviews with the film's cast, including James Robinson, Catherine McCormack, Brendan Gleeson, James Cosmo, David O'Hara, Angus MacFadyen, Patrick McGoohan, Peter Hanly, and Sophie Marceau. These interviews are broken up by person, but last a total of 14-and-a-half minutes.

Finishing the disc up is a six-minute Photo Montage, and a pair of theatrical trailers for Braveheart.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

With Paramount firmly entrenched on the HD DVD side of the hi-def format war, the new, standard-definition release of Braveheart: Special Collector's Edition is a puzzling one. Still, an impressive new video transfer enhances this sprawling epic that is still among the best films of the past 15 years. Despite his personal troubles, it's always great to watch Mel Gibson become William Wallace, and it's easy to forget he sat in the director's chair for this one too.


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