13th century Scotland. A Scottish rebel, William Wallace (Mel Gibson), leads an uprising against the cruel English reign of Edward the Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) who plans to take the Scottish crown for himself.
His father died trying to bring freedom to the Scots when he was a young boy, so Wallace – with the support of Robert the Bruce (Angus MacFadyen) takes on the invader.
Of all the ﬁlms ever made that purport to be based in actual history, Braveheart ranks as the most egregiously inaccurate.
William Wallace is portrayed in the ﬁlm as hailing from a family of peasant farmers. In actuality, Wallace’s father was a minor nobleman. The movie also depicts the English as executing Wallace’s wife, thus providing him with a deeply personal motive for rebelling against them. In fact, there is no record of Wallace having been married.
Even Mel Gibson’s physiognomy and age are wrong. Wallace was reputed to have been tall (perhaps 6’5″) and heavily muscled. He would have been in his late twenties to mid-thirties during the uprising against England.
Standing a trim 5’11” and 38 years of age at the time of ﬁlming, Mel Gibson was a half-foot shorter than Wallace, much slighter of build, and somewhat older.
Woad, the blue war paint prominently displayed in the ﬁlm’s battle scenes, had not been used by Scottish warriors since the end of the Roman era, some 800 years before the events depicted in the ﬁlm. The movie also depicts several clans in Wallace’s army dressed in their representative clan tartans, but the use of distinctive kilts and tartan patterns did not emerge until the Victorian era, 600 years later.
Budgeted at around $53 million and given an R rating for its scenes of brutal medieval warfare, Braveheart bagged six Oscars, including Best Director.
While the battle scenes are something to behold, the real interest lies in the way Gibson ups the ante in Hollywood cinema’s enduring fascination with the spectacle of broken, bloodied male bodies where narcissism and masochism combine to create the image of warrior-star.
The next stop for Gibson would be obvious, The Passion of The Christ, the ultimate in celluloid bloodletting.
Longshanks, King Edward I
Robert the Bruce
Governor of York