"The problem with Scotland, is that it's full of Scots!"
The film immediately starts off with historical inaccuracies! Explaining that in 1280 the Scottish king Alexander III dies without an heir, and the pagan king of England Edward "longshanks" (as he is nicknamed by the Scottish for having long legs) played extremely well by Patrick McGoohan has claimed the throne of Scotland for himself.
While this is only partly true, because the Edward I did claim the throne of Scotland for himself, however he was a christian, just like many Scots at the time. And Alexander III did not die until 1286.
The first quarter of the film (which is three hours long) is about William Wallace as a child, played by James Robinson . It shows that several nobles have been betrayed and killed king Edwards men at a meeting.
Which is another inaccuracy, because when Edward I declared himself ruler of Scotland, he ordered they send troops to assist him in his war against France. The Scottish parliament (a group of 12 nobles) countered this proposal by helping France instead. This happened in 1295, not 1280, and in response Edward sent troops towards Scotland and sacked the town of Berwick. Instead of ordering the nobles hanged like the film portrays.
|William, I'm your uncle... with privileges!|
Then Edward I's son Edward II (Peter Hanly) is crowned prince, he induces Primae Noctis, the right of the first night with the wife of any newly wedded lord or noble. Yet another historical inaccuracy as England has never induced Primae Notics on Scotland, ever.
There's no scenes of Wallace's training, and no clue about what happened to his uncle. Maybe they were deleted, as the film skips to him as an adult played by Mel Gibson. There's a ridiculous stone throwing competition between William and his burly friend Hamish played by Brendan Gleeson.
Then Primae Noctis is taken to effect, a local lord has his wife taken hostage.
Shortly after that, William meets up with his childhood sweetheart Murron (played by Catherine McCormac, who also starred in 28 Weeks Later) they ride off together on horseback in the pouring rain in one scene, and are riding through a sunny field of dry grass the next! It's all very cheesy.
|William Wallace - Level 25 Barbarian|
A while later Wallace has built himself a small army, and is met by a crazy Irishman called Stephen, and played brilliantly by David O'Hara. Wallace plans to fight back against the English invasion.
Halfway through the film the Battle of Stirling Bridge takes place, and it's where William makes his famous "Freeeeedom" speech. But the battle in the film, is completely unlike how the battle actually went...
Historically the Battle of Stirling Bridge happened on a narrow wooden bridge crossing the river at Stirling, the Scottish hid and waited at the opposite end of the bridge. The Scots then waited English army to cross the bridge, and ambushed them. forcing them into a retreat.
|Wallace and his guild at level 60|
The film doesn't show any bridge, it shows a choppy cavalry charge, as well as an amusing archer barrage, and when the infantry charge it gets sensationally bloody, Wallace hacks away at everything in sight. There are limbs being torn off and skulls being crushed, in a spectacle of slaughter, and if you can overlook the major historic faults, it's quite enjoyable.
After the battle Wallace is knighted, and wins the respect of Robert Bruce played by Angus Macfadyen, he decides to invade England in an effort to draw them into doing battle on their own turf, in doing so he sacks the city of York, which was used a staging ground for the English forces. Historically Wallace did invade England, but he didn't go anywhere near York.
The Battle of Falkirk that then takes place is also represented inaccurately Edward I being presented as an extremely cruel leader. No sheltron spear formations and unlike in history Wallace stayed to fight on.
When Wallace is betrayed and captured, he is taken to London Tower, and executed in front of a public audience. His body was cut into pieces, with his head placed on London Bridge, and his arms and legs sent to the four corners of Britain, which is possibly the only time in the entire film that it is actually true to history.
Braveheart is an extremely charismatic film. But it is let down by a complete failure to follow history, and being completely biased towards Scotland. However it is highly enjoyable, and is quite funny when not taken seriously. So still worth a watch!