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4K Ultra HD Review: Braveheart: 25th Anniversary Edition Steelbook

June 24, 2020

By John Corrado

The 1995 Best Picture winner Braveheart, a somewhat fictionalized historical epic which was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won five, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and with it comes a brand new 4K Ultra HD Steelbook edition of the film.

Directed by Mel Gibson, who won the Oscar for Best Director and also stars in the film, Braveheart tells the story of William Wallace, who fought for Scotland’s independence against England’s ruthless King Edward I (Patrick McGoohan). The English have declared Prima Nocta, giving themselves the power to rape Scottish brides on their wedding nights in order to breed them out. When Wallace’s bride Murron (Catherine McCormack) is murdered by English soldiers who attempt to rape her, Wallace leads an uprising against the British monarchy.

As I also noted about fellow Best Picture winner Gladiator in my review of the new Steelbook edition of that film which came out last week, Braveheart harkens back to a time when sweeping, crowd-pleasing epics were heavily favoured at the Oscars over smaller fare. This is grand scale filmmaking replete with sweeping cinematography by John Toll (who won an Oscar for his work), a rousing musical score by the late composer James Horner (who was nominated but didn’t win), and big, exciting battle scenes.

The battle scenes are admittedly very well staged by Gibson, (it goes without saying that watching the film now means separating out his work as an actor and director from the litany of racist, bigoted and anti-Semitic comments he has made in real life), and these sequences of mass carnage are one of the defining aspects of Braveheart. They unfold with Gibson’s usual penchant for violence and brutality, which would again be on full display in the actor’s future directorial efforts The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypto and Hacksaw Ridge.

First and foremost, Braveheart is a film that unfolds in the tradition of Old Hollywood spectacles. Over the course of the film’s sprawling three hour running time, it offers action, romance, character drama and tragedy, with universal themes about freedom, hero worship and self-sacrifice. It’s a potent mix of bloody battles and classic storytelling tropes that is both entertaining and involving to watch.

The 4K disc also includes a commentary track by Gibson, and the set comes with two regular Blu-ray discs as well. The first one includes the film along with the aforementioned commentary track and an interactive timeline of events, and the second includes the previously released featurettes Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion, Braveheart: A Look Back, Smithfield: Medieval Killing Fields, Tales of William Wallace, and A Writer’s Journey. A digital copy code is also included, and the Steelbook packaging itself is quite sleek and classy looking.

Braveheart: 25th Anniversary Edition is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. It’s 177 minutes and rated 18A.

Street Date: June 16th, 2020

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