Braveheart Mel Gibson's Oscar-winning 1995 Braveheart is an impassioned epic about William Wallace, the 13th-century Scottish leader of a popular revolt against England's tyrannical Edward I (Patrick McGoohan). Gibson cannily plays Wallace as a man trying to stay out of history's way until events force his hand, an attribute that instantly resonates with several of the actor's best-known roles, especially Mad Max. The subsequent camaraderie and courage Wallace shares in the field with fellow warriors is pure enough and inspiring enough to bring envy to a viewer, and even as things go wrong for Wallace in the second half, the film does not easily cave in to a somber tone. One of the most impressive elements is the originality with which Gibson films battle scenes, featuring hundreds of extras wielding medieval weapons. After Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky, Orson Welles's Chimes at Midnight, and even Kenneth Branagh's Henry V, you might think there is little new that could be done in creating scenes of ancient combat; yet Gibson does it. --Tom Keogh We Were Soldiers Based on the book by Lt. Col. Harold Moore (ret.) and journalist Joseph Galloway, We Were Soldiers offers a dignified reminder that the Vietnam War yielded its own crop of American heroes. Departing from Hollywood's typically cynical treatment of the war, writer-director Randall Wallace focuses on the first engagement of American soldiers with the North Vietnamese enemy in November 1965. Moore (played with colorful nuance by Mel Gibson) and nearly 400 inexperienced troopers from the U.S. Air Cavalry were surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army soldiers, and the film re-creates this brutal firefight with graphic authenticity, while telling the parallel story of grieving army wives back home. While UPI reporter Galloway (Barry Pepper) risks his life to chronicle the battle, Wallace offers a balanced (though somewhat fictionalized) perspective while eliciting laudable performances from an excellent cast. Like the best World War II dramas of the 1940s, We Were Soldiers pays tribute to brave men while avoiding the pitfalls of propaganda. --Jeff Shannon
Production: Paramount Pictures
2 wins & 2 nominations.