(Period epic — Color)

A Paramount Pictures release of an Icon Prods./Ladd Co. production. Produced by Mel Gibson, Alan Ladd Jr., Bruce Davey. Executive producer, Stephen McEveety. Directed by Mel Gibson. Screenplay, Randall Wallace. Reviewed at Paramount studio theater, L.A., May 10, 1995. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 177 min.

William Wallace – Mel Gibson
Princess Isabelle – Sophie Marceau
King Edward I – Patrick McGoohan
Murron – Catherine McCormack
Hamish – Brendan Gleeson
Campbell – James Cosmo
Stephen – David O’Hara
Robert the Bruce – Angus McFadyen
Prince Edward – Peter Hanly
Young William – James Robinson

A huge, bloody and sprawling epic, “Braveheart” is the sort of massive vanity piece that would be easy to disparage if it didn’t essentially deliver. Hardly lacking for ambition, Mel Gibson’s second directing effort represents an enormous marketing challenge due not only to its three-hour-length but the 13th-century subject matter and lack of marquee appeal beyond the star himself. Those factors should conspire to keep the pic from hacking its way through this summer’s pack of aspiring blockbusters, its merits notwithstanding.

There are clearly elements of “Spartacus” running through the film in tone and inspiration, from the enormous battles with thousands of kilted extras to Gibson’s William Wallace — a charismatic leader obsessed with freedom who rallies Scottish rebels against the tyrannical English king Edward the Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan).

Pic also engages in considerable court intrigue, from the forced marriage between Edward’s gay son and a French princess (Sophie Marceau, in her English-language debut), to the inner torment of Robert the Bruce (Angus McFadyen), one of the many Scottish lords whose feuding and avarice ultimately leave Wallace’s band to their own considerable devices.

A less notable but unavoidable comparison would be pic’s length, which does feel excessive; the film engages in one massive battle too many. There’s also a strong romantic undercurrent, but even with that, the movie is not for the squeamish, demonstrating as it does in graphic detail the brutality of hand-to-hand combat — masterfully staged sequences that nevertheless become somewhat numbing after repeated exposure to all the bludgeoning and skewering.

Camera (Rank Film Labs color, Deluxe prints), John Toll; editor, Steven Rosenblum; music, James Horner; production design, Tom Sanders; art direction, Dan Dorrance; set decoration, Peter Howitt; costume design, Charles Knode; sound (Dolby/DTS), Brian Simmons; associate producers, Dean Lopata, Elizabeth Robinson; assistant director, David Tomblin; second-unit directors, Mic Rodgers, Matt Earl Beesley; stunt coordinators, Rodgers, Simon Crane; casting, Patsy Pollock.

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