Blu-ray
Must Own
4.5 stars
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$39.99
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
3 Stars
High-Def Extras
2 Stars
Bottom Line
Must Own

Braveheart

Street Date:
September 1st, 2009
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
September 2nd, 2009
Movie Release Year:
1995
Studio:
Paramount Home Entertainment
Length:
177 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

'Braveheart' endures in the hearts of filmgoers not because of its relentless and at times remarkable action scenes, or because of Mel Gibson's fine acting and directing. It lives on in our collective hearts because of the message it so boldly embodies. Freedom comes at a cost, at the risk of cliché; freedom isn't free at all. Blood is shed and lives are lost for the cause of something greater. That's why 'Braveheart,' the story of a man who united a nation against tyranny, packs as much punch today as it did the year it was released.

By and large we enjoy stories about the underdog, especially if they're based in truth. Film can transport us to a time when people fought against all odds for something they believed in. William Wallace (Mel Gibson) actually did exist. While the movie takes artistic liberties with the story, the core details are there. Mankind can do great things, even seemingly impossible things, if we just believe and act.

As the film opens, the British empire is in disarray. King Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) is facing tough times in trying to quell the Scots up North, who do nothing but cause him trouble. He claims the right of "primae noctis," which allows the nobleman of the township to take a bride to his own bed on the her wedding night. Longshanks has decided that if he can't get rid of them, he'll slowly breed them out with English blood.

It is under these circumstance that young William Wallace falls in love with his childhood sweetheart and they are married in secret so she won't be defiled by the local nobleman. Yet after they are found out, and she is killed, Wallace goes on a rampage killing any and every Englishman that comes near him.

In watching 'Braveheart,' it's interesting to note the transition of Wallace's goal. At first his need for revenge consumes him, he's purely killing the English because they killed his wife, but a slow transformation occurs, and his quest for revenge turns into something more broadly meaningful, something that can actually change lives for entire nations.

'Braveheart' is not only a marvelous action film, it's also a tender love story. I'm not just talking about the love story between Wallace and Murron (Catherine McCormac), but the love story between Wallace and his people. Even though most of the times his own people conspire against him because of greed and self-interest, Wallace still fights for them. He still hopes to gain their allegiance, and it's heartbreaking when he is denied this time and time again.

Message and story aside, 'Braveheart' excels on technical merits as well. The direction and cinematography are top-notch. The color palette is blended well to capture the lushness of the English and Scottish countryside. That such bloody battles could take place in such an intrinsically gorgeous place is beyond comprehension. Wars are fought everywhere, but nowadays we picture those wars being fought against dusty, desert-like backdrops. Britain is green and strikingly beautiful. When fighting isn't going on, the countryside seems so serene and peaceful it's hard to believe it was home to such blood-spattered battles.

'Braveheart,' winner of the 1995 Academy Award for Best Picture, still has its detractors, but I'm not one of them. Every time I watch this film I'm still moved by its message and touched by its tenderness.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Filmed in the mid-90s, 'Braveheart' bursts onto Blu-ray with an HD transfer as spectacular as the rolling green hills of Northern England. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer of 'Braveheart' is as near perfect as you can get for a catalog title. Sure, the transfer suffers from the occasional white specks and dust, but that's to be expected from a film approaching its fifteenth anniversary. The specks seem to become a bit more noticeable during the second hour of the film, but they calm down again toward the end. Some shots do appear a bit soft, like the quick shots of Longshanks lying in his bed towards the end of the film.

Yet other than these few, and minor complaints, this transfer scores top marks in every category. It's as close to reference material as you can get with a catalog title. The color palette is rich. Deep shades of green are in abundance, and the transfer handles every shade perfectly. The scene of Wallace hunting in the forest is one of the most richly detailed and colorful parts of the film. Everything from strands of hair blowing in the wind, to the fine links on chainmail are clear and concise. Technical anomalies like aliasing, macro-blocking, and noticeable edge enhancement weren't detected. This is a clean, beautiful transfer that reflects quite well the beauty of the cinematography and the film itself.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The superiority of this disc doesn't stop with the video. The uncompressed 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack shines in its own way. Truthfully, I could not find one fault with this track. It's engrossing not only in the stirring action sequences, but also in the more subdued instances. The surrounds work magnificently in creating an all encompassing effect during even the quietest moments. Birds chirping, clanging of armor and metal off in the distance, and the rustling of the trees from the wind provide a wonderful ambient atmosphere.

The action sequences do provide the soundtrack with some stellar effects though. The subwoofer shakes the room when hordes of calvary hoof it across the battlefield. It rumbles as fire engulfs straw huts. The surround channels spring to life during the action, making us feel like we're right in the middle of the battle. Swords clang, shields splinter, and warriors moan. James Horner's rousing score blares throughout the room, coming alive, a character unto itself. This high-def soundtrack makes watching 'Braveheart' a truly absorbing experience.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

'Braveheart' comes in a 2-disc special set. Disc one contains the film and two special features: an audio commentary and a Timelines feature. Disc two contains the rest of the supplemental material.

  • Audio Commentary - 'Braveheart' actor/director Mel Gibson is the sole commentator here. Fans will want to listen to this commentary since he gives some great, spot on insight about the film. Though the commentary is interesting and Gibson does share a few secrets about the filming, casual viewers might not be willing to give up another three hours to hear the commentary.
  • Tales of William Wallace (SD, 29 min) - This feature is taken from the 2007 Collector's Edition release of the DVD. It separates fact from fiction when talking about William Wallace and his life.
  • A Writer's Journey (SD, 21 min) - Also taken from the earlier DVD release, this feature cover the story of Randall Wallace, author of the script for 'Braveheart.' The last name is no coincidence, Randall is a direct descendent of William Wallace.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • 'Braveheart' Timelines - This feature gives you access to three different timelines. You get the stone cold facts about the real William Wallace, the fictional account that comes from the film, and a film production timeline that chronicles bringing the story of William Wallace to the big screen. It's exciting to compare the real-life William Wallace to the fictionalized version.
  • Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion - This is an interactive map that allows the user to learn more about the famous battles depicted in the film and where they took place. The Battle of Stirling Bridge, the Battle of Falkirk, the capture of William Wallace, and the Battle of Bannockburn are all represented. The battles of Falkirk and Bannockburn are represented with computer generated animations of what may have happened during the fighting. They take on kind of a History Channel feeling, but are informative nonetheless.
  • Braveheart: A Look Back (HD, 1hr) - This is a three part look back at the making of 'Braveheart' and why it became such a storied piece of cinematic history. Part one is called 'A Company of Equals' (20 min), which tells the behind-the-scenes story of the production of the film. There are interviews with cast and crew. They describe the pure scope of putting together a project like this and the enormous amount of work that went into getting 'Braveheart' ready for the big screen. Part two, 'The Sound of Laughter' (19 min), is a sort of respite in between two heavily informative bookend pieces. It talks about Mel Gibson's war makeup, his fine abilities as a director, and covers some of the more jovial times that were had on set by the cast and crew. Part three, 'The Measure of a Film' (20 min), delves back into the film in a big way. It covers quite a lot about the film, everything from shooting the battle sequences to the editing of the film. The three parts make for a fantastically all-around enlightening piece about how the film came to be and what has kept it such a strong piece of cinema after all these years.
  • Trailers (HD) - Two trailers for the film are presented here, one teaser and one theatrical.

Final Thoughts

One of the most anticipated Blu-ray releases is finally here. Fans have been clamoring for years to see one of their most beloved films finally get the high-def treatment, and what a treatment it is! Everything about this Blu-ray shines. Co-debuting Paramount's “Sapphire Series,” 'Braveheart' lives up to our HD expectations. It's a must own for any collection.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-50
  • Region A
  • Sapphire Series

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.35:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English
  • English SDH
  • French
  • Spanish

Supplements

  • Featurette
  • Audio Commentary
  • Theatrical Trailer

Exclusive HD Content

  • Interactive Timelines
  • Interactive Map
List Price
$39.99
Amazon
$18.72 (53%)
3rd Party
$8.87
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»