Viewed – 07 November 2009  Blu-ray

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with these sort of historical swords & sandals epics.  I wouldn’t normally jump at the prospect of a near 3 hour movie about some Scots barbarian, but with some exceptions to the rule, most notably Ridley Scott’s superb Gladiator, I can be made to see something special in a movie that is mostly about men killing one another on a battle field.  Mel Gibson plays legendary Scottish hero William Wallace, who in the 13th century stood up against an oppressive English regime headed by ruthless King Edward ‘The Longshanks’, and paved the way for Scotland to become its own free country. 

Now what helps such a serious subject be palatable and even entertaining is the charisma on show from Gibson’s character and the group of underdog rap-scallians that make up his posse, add to this the superb cinematography, a stirring score by James Horner and a story packed with genuine heart, and this has something for any real movie lover.  Yes it’s very bloody, the battles unflinching in their violence, but none of it feels gratuitous.  The supporting characters, especial Patrick McGoohan’s evil King are complexly crafted, with Sophie Marceau’s sensual Princess Of Wales enriching every scene she appears in.  But overall, this is Gibson’s film, and he is a revelation, handling the emotions and the feel-good speeches with real conviction, proving him a true Hollywood icon – he even carries off the accent with never a doubt in your head.

The Blu-ray as hoped is impeccable, with an exhaustive amount of information covering both the production and the real life source material, with a whole second disk devoted to reconstructions of the battles and candid historical documentaries to give a fully rounded interpretation on what really went on all those hundreds of years ago.  The movie itself is in great shape too, with the high-definition treatment shining, and bringing the Scottish highlands to vivid life.  Add to this a beefy DTS HD Master Audio track, complete with a feature-length commentary from Mel Gibson and Bonus View picture in picture footage to watch during the movie – and this is just plain and simple an essential purchase.

Verdict:  5 /5