Braveheart Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews the highly anticipated Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Director/Star Mel Gibson’s epic which won 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

95

Details:

Studio and Year: Paramount – 1995
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 177 minutes
Genre: Action/Drama/Biopic

Disc Format: BD-100
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Mel Gibson, Patrick McGoohan, Sophie Marceau, Catherine McCormack, Angus MacFadyen, Brendan Gleeson, Tommy Flanagan
Directed by: Mel Gibson
Music by: James Horner
Written by: Randall Wallace
Region Code: A

Release Date: May 15, 2018

“FREEDOM!!!”

My Take:

I reviewed Braveheart’s 2009 Blu-ray release, and have included my comments from that review here. Ratings for film, and bonus content will be the same, as they are identical to that release. New comments and ratings for the Ultra HD video and Dolby Atmos mix are below.

Note: There are spoilers contained below. Skip to paragraph four to avoid them. 

Braveheart is the 1995 Academy Award winning film for best picture and best director for star Mel Gibson who plays the title role. It is an historical epic based upon the exploits of the Legendary Scotsman William Wallace who began the Scottish resistance against the oppressive and brutal English Monarch Edward I or Edward the “Longshanks“. In 1280 England under King Edward, has occupied much of Scotland, and his rule directly lead to the deaths of William’s father and brother. This resulted in young William being raised abroad by his uncle who taught him to use his “wits“ before using his sword as well as ensuring that he received a proper education. As the years passed the Scots continued to live under the cruel and sometimes vicious rules of King Edward. William, now an adult, returns home intent on living as a farmer and avoiding involvement in the ongoing conflict.

He begins a romance with his childhood friend Murron and the two are forced to marry in secret to avoid the primae noctis decree Longshanks has set forth. When a group of English soldiers attempt to rape Murron William defends her but unbeknownst to him she is caught while trying to get away. In an attempt to draw William out the village’s English Sheriff publicly cuts Murron’s throat killing her. In retribution, an enraged William, with the assistance of his fellow villagers, slaughters the English garrison. He cuts the sheriff’s throat on the same public post and with the same dagger that killed Murron.

This is the catalyst that sets into motion the heroic resistance that will pit a group of Scottish Commoners led by William Wallace against the might of the English Army. As his legend spreads, hundreds of Scots from the surrounding clans volunteer to join Wallace’s militia. Wallace leads his army through a series of successful battles against the English, including the Battle of Stirling and the sack the English city of York. Problems surface when two Scottish nobles, who plan on submitting to King Edward, betray Wallace, who is defeated at the Battle of Falkirk. This would eventually lead to William’s capture and public execution at Smithfield.

Gibson’s William Wallace is portrayed as a larger than life individual who could move mountains. The factual aspects of this telling may be the subject of debate but as far as I am concerned this is a superbly crafted and gripping film. It tells a brutal, heartfelt, and multilayered tale about a man who found himself unwittingly driven to stand for freedom, liberty and independence for his countrymen after the only people he ever cared about were violently taken from him. The film conveys raw emotion, bloody violence, undying love, sadness, and a sprinkling of levity which are all wonderfully complimented by the performances of the cast. At nearly three hours this isn’t a short film but it’s tight pacing keeps it moving smoothly so it never seems that long to me.

Credit must be given where it is due and Gibson does an incredible job both in front of the camera and behind it. The international cast as a whole is simply marvelous. I find Patrick McGoohan’s portrayal of King Edward the “Longshanks” to be my favorite. He literally steals every scene he is in as his presence commands your attention. The film is beautifully shot and features superlative cinematography, complex large-scale fight choreography and an incredible music score.

Every bit the definition of an epic in both scope and subject matter Braveheart is truly an American Cinema classic. Like many of you reading this I have been eagerly awaiting this Ultra HD Blu-ray release. Keep reading to find out if the wait was worth it.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for brutal medieval warfare.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights:
  • HDR: Bright Highlights:
  • HDR: Expanded Color:
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights:
  • HDR: Bright Highlights:
  • HDR: Expanded Color:
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness: 
  • Entertainment factor: 

Braveheart comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Paramount Home distribution featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

Braveheart was shot on 35mm film, and Its presentation in Ultra HD is derived from that source. It’s important to note that the ultimate goal for any release on home video is to present a film in the highest possible quality based upon its original elements. A film like Braveheart has an aesthetic that incorporates film grain and the use of cinematography that won’t result in the type of high gloss, tack-like sharpness of many newer films shot today. This isn’t a problem and shouldn’t be seen as such.

This is a period specific film that strives to recreate the look and feel of director Mel Gibson’s vision. Reminiscent of two recent Ultra HD releases from Paramount, Gladiator and Saving Private Ryan, this rendering takes the faithful reproduction on Blu-ray to the next level. Braveheart has never made for a commanding visual experience on home video but, that was always a given determined by John Toll’s terrific cinematography and the elements necessary to convey the film’s somber, dark tone.

I am happy to report that its primary foundation remains fully intact while revealing layers of seemingly new levels of detail, definition, color delineation, and emboldened contrast that elevate its thematic impact. The opening scene with its beautiful flyover offers rich earth tones and subtle nuance that convey the expanse of the Scottish vistas. I was impressed with the sharpness and detail in the sequence where young Hamish and William play near the stream. The battle scene in chapter 11 where William, his captains and the Commoners faceoff against the English army and their 300 heavy horse has never looked better.

The subtle minutia visible in the period clothing and facial features among the members of the cast was striking. Grain remains perfectly intact, with an even and filmic essence that underscores the thematic content. The color range in the film is limited but the rendering of primary colors was gratifying and contrastingly vivid. I also found that fleshtones appeared gradational and quite natural, especially compared to the 1080p version. The addition of high dynamic range added a pleasing visual element that enriched both natural and artificial light. I also felt that the purposefully dark/dreary sequences benefited from the application of HDR which emboldened their blacks and shadow delineation. In addition to the increase in resolution, this made the differences between the 1080p video and this rendering standout.

As I said with Saving Private Ryan, as impressed as I was with the 1080p rendering, I found the Ultra HD presentation of Braveheart allows its attributes to be fully realized in a way that it hadn’t been before. Video enthusiasts are sure to appreciate it.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Forum Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

Comparing the DV and HDR-10 presentations for Braveheart, I found the rendering of HDR to be essentially identical. As stated earlier, this film’s predominating elements aren’t necessarily lent to the type of eye catching HDR that allows the format shine. At the end of the day you can’t go wrong with either. Hats off to Paramount for a job well done!

In listening to the Dolby Atmos soundtrack, I was surprised at how active the mix is. The use of overhead sound objects elevates proportional correlation. When compared to the original 5.1 track the Atmos mix offers a noticeable improvement by opening up the soundstage, elevating the perception of low level detail and seemingly offering broader dynamic range. James Horner’s beautiful music score invigorates the extended sound field as its presence underscores the storyline. The film is loaded with atmospherics, off screen cues and discrete sound effects that when applied using the freedom of object-based placement adds an enriching layer to the soundtrack. This is noticeable right from the opening sequence with noteworthy examples being found throughout (the first battle sounds incredible). As good as the original lossless mix sounds, the Atmos mix adds a complimentary layer that brings the listening experience to new heights.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Bonus Features:

  • Braveheart Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Braveheart Blu-ray
    • Commentary by Mel Gibson
    • BRAVEHEART Timelines
    • Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion
    • BRAVEHEART: A Look Back
    • Smithfield: Medieval Killing Fields
    • Tales of William Wallace
    • A Writer’s Journey
  • Digital Copy

Final Thoughts:

Braveheart is truly a classic film that regales us with its interpretation of events in the life of the seemingly enigmatic Scottish hero William Wallace. True or not this is a wonderfully told story that crosses genre lines to deliver a powerful and moving cinematic experience that is a favorite of many. Its highly anticipated Ultra HD release from Paramount Home Distribution has had video enthusiasts crossing their fingers hoping for top flight image quality. I am happy to report that the wait was indeed worth it. This is a terrific and faithful video rendering that appears to preserve the film’s original source elements. Add to that an exhilarating Dolby Atmos immersive sound mix and you have a superb home viewing experience. If you’re a fan Braveheart’s Ultra HD Blu-ray release is a must have plain and simple.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems 


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