Mel Gibson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying William Wallace in Braveheart.
Braveheart is a film that's suffered in reputation over the years leaving even its qualities that should be unimpeachable, the production design, the costume design, the score, and the cinematography oddly forgotten despite their quality. Now I'll put it out there I think its an excellent film, and that Gibson's work in terms of the battle scenes in particular is probably more influential than given credit for. Of course Braveheart did do the worst thing that a film can do for its reputation, that's of course win Best Picture, nothing will derive quicker hatred than that. This is only compounded by being consistently attacked for its historical accuracy, something that tends to only matters if a person likes the film to begin with. I actually find that particularly baffling since the film itself states its falsehood in its opening narration. The idea of the film itself seems misunderstood when measured in accuracy as though the film itself is striving to be a historical document or even a realistic telling of a man's life. That's not the case in the least, although I would hope one would notice the fact that it is called Braveheart after all, its about the creation of a legend. The final nail in Braveheart's reputation as a deserved Best Picture though comes with its director and star who happen to be the same man.
Now Mel Gibson's personal reputation has suffered even more than the film's reputation, which I'll admit is more deserved than the film's loss. This has extended to making anything he's associated with, for some, to be blighted in some way, and has become a bit of someone to kick around an extra bit, even being Razzie nominated for The Expendables 3 despite giving the best performance in that film. This hatred can easily extend to his work in Braveheart as a director and particularly an actor. I'll start with what's easiest to be seen in a negative light in regards to this performance. I'll admit that Gibson has a very modern look about him that does not make the hair or the clothes to seem perfectly fitting for him. Then of course there is a matter of the accent which is an unforgivable point for some. Again I'm never an excessive stickler when it comes to accents to begin with, but I'll admit this is not clearly an authentic Scottish accent. Then again Wallace's accent, as told by his background in the film, which was living in all sorts of countries with his uncle, which actually would likely result in a slightly wonky Scottish accent, you know like Christopher Lambert's accent.
Well with all that out of the way let's examine the rest of his performance. Again Braveheart is not really about an actual depiction of the real William Wallace, but rather an image of him as a romantic hero. This follows suit with the way his early adult scenes are depicted as he just wishes to live a simple life in Scotland, but man those English just have to keep getting in the way. Gibson in the early scenes though just presents Wallace as a simple likable sort of man falling upon his usual charm in an effective fashion. In the tragically brief relationship between Wallace and his wife Murron (Catherine McCormack) Gibson realizes just the simplest of warmth and love in these scenes. The interactions between the two most certainly are not all that complex though they carry a natural sweetness that establishes the proper motivation for Wallace when Murron is swiftly murdered by the English. The scene where Wallace gets his revenge by taking the English encampment and killing is an outstanding moment for Gibson. Gibson does not just go through the motion rather he depicts the sheer intensity in Wallace of the moment, and the emotional quality in the attack. Gibson is especially strong just before he kills the man responsible for Murron's death, as the sheer hate, as well as sadness in his loss, can be seen in his eyes as he makes the killing stroke.
This sets Wallace on a quest for Scottish independence taking the fight directly to the English. Gibson does bring the needed presence for a man such as Wallace, and brings the necessary command as well as ease in camaraderie that would ensure Wallace's popularity as a leader. As the battles wage Gibson continues to carry the film and importantly never loses the emotional quality to his performance since it is never just a simple duty for Wallace to fight the British. Gibson realizes Wallace as the romantic hero he needs to be for this
film. With that though Gibson matches
any quality the film needs to bestow upon this Wallace. There are even a
few comic moments thrown in there which Gibson is able to quickly and
naturally just make them part of Wallace's personal style. There is even the other romance, which I think should prove the intentions of the story, which again Gibson delivers in bringing the right tender quality that does succeed in creating the relationship, and importantly a different one than he had in Murron. It's less true love and more of an eloquent understanding that Gibson realizes. The most pivotal aspect behind the man though is his unquestionable determination, which Gibson completely captures with his performance. This is perhaps best shown in what is probably the most noted moment in the film which is when Wallace rallies some fearful Scots into facing the large English army. Gibson absolutely brings the needed passion and persuasion into the speech, and the speech would not be as iconic as it is without Gibson's delivery which matches the power of the words.
Braveheart is an epic and Gibson matches the duty of carrying such, which I often find is an undervalued in appraisals of such performances. Gibson certainly never becomes lost in the spectacle of the film, and is essential in keeping the story grounded in the right fashion. The moments where Wallace recalls his lost love are made particularly poignant, and once again Gibson does so much within his expressions as Wallace, as the real weight of Wallace's personal losses is keenly felt. Gibson attaches what each battle means with his portrayal of Wallace's own vendetta but also his own belief in what is to gain from every encounter. Eventually Wallace is betrayed and captured by the English leaving only one last thing for a hero of legend to do, which is to die in a grand fashion. Of course this is made difficult through the level of torture that Wallace must endure in an attempt to break him. Again Gibson is fantastic in his portrayal of the scene. He certainly gets across the resolve of Wallace in the moment, but what's most remarkable is how he manages to amplify the severity of the scene. In this sequence Gibson, as director, actually stays fairly reserved shying away from the graphic details, but Gibson offers them nonetheless as an actor. This is seen best in the castration scene, which we do not see even a slight detail of visually, but we do not need to because of Gibson's reaction which is almost too effective. Gibson does not hold off on the pain in his depiction of Wallace, though still being convincing in keeping Wallace's refusal, and making his final words quite powerful by showing it to be from the last ounce of strength man has. This may not be a performance for everyone, but I think Gibson more than makes do with his own compromise, he actually had to play the central role in order to direct. Gibson as an actor and director go hand in hand in painting a compelling portrait of a man, not of history, but rather of legend. Now I know what the Braveheart fan will say who has lost hope "The haters are too many!". To that I saw, Aye, fight for the film and you may lose credibility in their eyes. Agree, and you'll maintain it... at least a while.
And lying about opinion, many years from now, would you be willin' to
trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one
chance, to come back here and tell all those haters that they may take our
lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM....to love Braveheart.