Directed by: David Mackenzie
Written by: Mark Bomback, Bathsheba Doran, David Harrower, James MacInnes and David Mackenzie
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Billy Howle, Chris Pine, Florence Pugh, Stephen Dillane and Tony Curran.
Outlaw King is the latest big budget blockbuster from Netflix documenting the rise of historical Scottish icon Robert The Bruce, reuniting Hell or High Water Oscar nominated director David Mackenzie and star Chris Pine. Featuring an impressive cast, plenty of spectacular battle scenes and beautiful, sweeping shots of Scotland – this is definitely one that should be seen on as big a screen as possible!
The film centres on 14th century Scotland following the defeat of William Wallace and the Scottish rebellion in the Battle of Falkirk. Tired of war, the elder Scottish nobles surrender and swear fealty to King Edward (Stephan Dillane), resulting in the English ruling the nation with a tight and cruel grip. But with the number of violent acts growing towards his people, the young Earl Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) seizes the Scottish crown with the aim of uniting Scotland to claim back their independence. But the young King suffers a crippling defeat – disgraced and outlawed, he’s forced to take back his land one castle at a time, beginning his guerrilla war against the English forces.
However with so much history and battles to cover, MacKenzie has crammed in way too many events from Robert the Bruce’s life for a two-hour film, leaving certain scenes and development of characters feeling rushed. One of the main motivations in the film for Robert the Bruce is his and Elizabeth de Burgh’s (Florence Pugh) marriage, yet the brilliant Florence Pugh seems to be relegated to only a handful of scenes – leaving the romance feeling somewhat hollow. Also the supporting cast aren’t given enough screen time to be fully fleshed out, leading to certain death scenes not really having the full impact desired. And where was the iconic spider and the cave?!
A regal Chris Pine leads an ensemble cast filled with plenty of Game of Thrones stars who definitely know what they’re doing when it comes to muddy battle sequences! Overall Pine impresses as the King, bringing a quiet strength to the role, deftly balancing being a man of honour and principles, with a fierce and strategic warrior. Pine however excels most in the action sequences and his Scottish accent is far better than I imagined! An almost unrecognisable Aaron Taylor-Johnson seems like he’s having the time of his life as the Earl of Douglas, bringing a terrifically maniacal and unhinged performance to the film. At times he really did really did remind me of Travis Fimmel’s take on Ragnar Lothbrok! Also of note is Billy Howle’s Prince of Wales, a superbly petulant and unpredictable enemy who you almost feel for, if he wasn’t such a psychopath. As I mentioned before, it’s just a shame that the fabulous Florence Pugh wasn’t featured more, as she brought a strong feminine presence to Outlaw King.
But where the film truly shines is in the beautiful locations, impressive sets and epic and bloody battles. Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker) impresses with numerous stunning and sweeping aerial shots of Scotland that rival the locations of Vikings and Outlander. The costumes, hairstyles and sets also add an extra sense of realism to the film, immersing you in the 14th Century. The big screen adaptation of the Battle of Loudon Hill, where 500 Scots faced off against more than 3,000 English troops, is definitely the highlight of the film. The huge scale of the battle rivals that of Game of Thrones’s epic ‘Battle of the Bastards’ – proving a sprawlingly violent and muddy affair with many British (and horses) meeting a grisly end as they fall onto giant spikes.
Overall, Outlaw King is a visually stunning film with an impressive cast, yet somehow it lacks the depth and true stakes to be an epic hit.
Outlaw King becomes available for streaming on Netflix on Friday, November 9.