I hate Braveheart with an insane passion, loathe the movie and everything it stands for. Part of that is because the nationalism on show in the film always creeped me out a bit and part of it is because it managed to eclipse this absolute gem of a film.
It's a move that is consistently in my top 50, an all time favourite and part of that is because there's a sense of verisimilitude to it. It's not a particulalry accurate film, it's depiction of Scottish/English relations at the time is a little off, but it feels real and lived in. It feels grimy and it feels real, in a way that Braveheart never did to me. In a lot of ways the film reminds me more of Last of the Mohicans than Braveheart, using fairly grounded methods to tell a fairly lyrical story.
The cast in this are great, everyone does amazing work. Tim Roth, Brian Cox, Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange in particular all do amazing work. I think Roth delivers one of the great movie villains in this film, his Cunningham an odious, loathable, hateful little bastard who nevertheless is oddly magnetic as the main antagonist. He's got this peculiar brand of non-chalant evil, where he seems to exhibit practically no effort or thought when doing truly loathable things. Neeson manages to bring warmth and humanity to a character who could be paper-thin. He's a man who prides his honour above all else and effectively plunges his clan deep into hell to protect that honour, but he makes Roy sympathetic and likeable even as the consequences of his actions are fully felt. Lange, despite a slipping accent, is just fantastic as Mary McGregor. She's got great chemistry with Neeson and a steely determination which makes some of her scenes the standout pieces of the film.
The final fight is what Rob Roy is perhaps most famous for and it is truly magnificent, nice long shots allowing you to see the full extent of William Hobbs brilliant choreography. It's a swordfight unlike anything else in cinema, with a naturalistic ebb and flow and a toll taking on both characters just by swinging the swords. It's a great technical feat. lent real emotional power by the work of Roth and Neeson.