HTF REVIEW: Battle Of The Brave

Aaron Silverman

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Aaron Silverman

Battle Of The Brave
Written By: Pierre Billon
Directed By: Jean Beaudin
US Theatrical Release: None (Sony Pictures)
US DVD Release: November 7, 2006
Running Time: 2:23:07 (13 chapter stops)
Rating: PG-13 (For Violence and Sexual Content)
Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic (Extra Features: N/A)
Audio: English DD5.1 (Extra Features: N/A)
Subtitles: English; some Native American dialogue (Iroquis, maybe?) uses burned-in white subtitles (Extra Features: N/A)
TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: N/A)
Menus: Not animated.
Packaging: Standard keepcase; no insert.
MSRP: $24.96

THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 2.5/5

If you’ve been eyeing the cover of Battle Of The Brave and having visions of lines of Redcoats vying with French troops and their Native American allies for control of the American Colonies, then you might want to put it back on the shelf and try something else – these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. It’s an historical epic, to be sure, but this is an epic of the costume drama variety. The only “battles” being fought here are emotional.

One might think of Battle Of The Brave as “historical” in another sense, as well – this is one of the most thoroughly old-fashioned films I’ve seen in quite some time. Turn off the color on your TV, ignore the actors you know, and you might as well be watching something from the 1930s (pre-code, that is). The cast overacts with gusto, grinning whenever possible and clearly having a ball. Watching them, I kept having thoughts along the lines of “those two are gonna hook up,” “that dude will turn out to be evil,” “there’s going to be a fight between those two guys,” and so on. I was right every time, too!

The story concerns Marie-Loup (Noémie Godin-Vigneau), a strong-willed, feminist (by 1759 standards, anyway) young widow who lives in Quebec with her adolescent daughter, France (Juliette Gosselin), and Francois (David La Haye), who has returned to the city just in time to inherit his respected father’s small estate. He’s a dashing swashbuckler in the old Hollywood tradition, which is a bit of a shame due to the general lack of swashbuckling in the film. He does get a couple of fight scenes, one of which even involves him doing a little dance, kicking his adversary in the rear, and bowing to a crowd of cheering peasant onlookers. Errol Flynn would be proud.

Marie-Loup and Francois are, of course, perfect for each other, but various other characters and events continually conspire against their romance. Among them are a number of conniving local officials, Father Thomas (Gérard Depardieu), who, despite having baptized Marie-Loup (not to mention being a Catholic priest), has a bit of a thing for her, and – well, if I mentioned any of the others, then I’d be spoiling all those juicy betrayals. Suffice it to say that Battle Of The Brave lays it on pretty thickly.

The story of our young heroes’ star-crossed love affair plays out against the backdrop of the war between the French and British for control of Canada, although there are unfortunately no real battle scenes (the closest we get is a brief sequence of British mortar crews shelling the city, which lasts just long enough to blast a character whose service to the plot has ended). There are a number of brief, semi-random appearances by historical personages, almost like cameos from your high school European History textbook. These include William Pitt (Tim Roth), Ben Franklin (Colm Meaney), and General James Wolfe (Jason Isaacs), who show up in a handful of scenes set at the Admiralty in London, as well as Madame de Pompadour (Micky Sébastian) and even Voltaire (Philippe Dormoy). (Jason Isaacs may induce a sense of deja-vu, as he seems to have borrowed not only his old uniform from his turn as Tarleton in The Patriot, but also the ahistorically bloodthirsty, near-psychotic persona he effected.) Most of these appearances don’t have much to do with Francois and Marie-Loup directly, but they do at least provide a bit of historical context. Getting Francois more involved in the politics might have added some interest.

Battle Of The Brave is no classic, but it is what it is – a traditional four-hanky costume melodrama, with a bombastic orchestral soundtrack swelling over passionate embraces as sneering villains plot the downfall of the pure-hearted lovers. It can get pretty hokey, and it wants to be taken a bit more seriously than it really deserves, but if you’re in the mood for this sort of thing, it’s passable.


THE WAY I SEE IT: 2.5/5

The picture isn’t awful, but it’s nothing to write home about either. It’s a little soft, with lots of grain and occasional digital noise. Edge enhancement is quite noticeable in a few scenes, but for the most part there’s not a lot of visible digital processing. Colors are generally nice, although much of the film consists of dull earth tones (understandable for the rural 1750s).


THE WAY I HEAR IT: 3.5/5

The audio is fine, but not overly exciting. Pretty much everything is in the front soundstage, without a huge amount of separation. The music does make a few appearances in the rear channels, though. If melodramatic orchestral swells are your thing, then you’re in for a real treat.


THE SWAG: 0/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)

Trailers

The trailers for The Da Vinci Code, Joyeux Noël and Sueño play automatically when the disc is inserted. They may be skipped.
  • The Da Vinci Code (2:21) (DD5.1; 2.35:1 anamorphic)
  • Joyeux Noël (1:53) (DD2.0; 2.40:1 anamorphic)
  • Sueño (2:19) (DD2.0; 1.77:1 anamorphic)
  • The Devil And Daniel Johnston (2:24) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
  • Mountain Patrol: Kekexili (1:48) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
  • Sketches of Frank Gehry (1:58) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
  • Why We Fight (1:55) (DD2.0; 1.77:1 anamorphic)
SUMMING IT ALL UP
The Way I Feel About It: 2.5/5
The Way I See It: 2.5/5
The Way I Hear It: 3.5/5
The Swag: 0/5


Interestingly, Battle Of The Brave was shot in both English and French simultaneously, using the same actors and crew. (The French version is entitled Nouvelle-France, which, unlike Battle Of The Brave, is at least tangentially related to the actual movie.) We’re treated here to the English version, where the French-speaking actors make a respectable show of it and the English actors go directly to Hamsville without passing Go or collecting $200. In fact, all of the accents seem to enhance the melodrama (not that it really needs enhancing). The disc is fairly pedestrian in terms of A/V quality, and the complete lack of extras is pretty disappointing – this appears to have been a very involved production. Don’t expect a whole lot from the film, but if you’re in the mood for a good old-fashioned tearjerker that really wears its heart on its sleeve, you may enjoy Battle Of The Brave.
 

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