The Outlaw King tells the story of Robert the Bruce a Scottish National Hero. The proclaimed King of Scots in the fourteenth century. Scotland had been oppressed by Edward I, for many years during a brutal period in history and had repeatedly attempted to regain independence. Robert had fought alongside William Wallace in the First War of Independence until they were defeated at Falkirk in 1298.
Scotland stayed in the grip of Edward until Robert's father died. He then set out to state his claim to the Scottish Throne successfully claiming the crown in 1306. Bruce eventually went on to successfully gain independence for Scotland with a famous win at the Battle of Bannockburn. He created an independent Scottish Parliament and by 1326 Edward III had renounced any claim to Scotland.
This film picks up the story in 1304, two years before Robert claims the throne to become King of Scotland. And the year before William Wallace is captured. So instantly this makes it feel like a follow up to the Mel Gibson film Braveheart, we even get to see the significance of Wallaces' death in Roberts uprising.
Directed by David Mackenzie, the film takes a much more historical approach than Braveheart. However, that doesn't necessarily make the film better for it. Mackenzie has created some great films like ‘Hell Or High Water' which is a great layered cinematic experience. That said, The Outlaw King seems to be missing his usual fluency. Barry Ackroyd, who worked on ‘The Hurt Locker', heads up Cinematography. He does a fantastic job capturing the incredible scenery in Scotland with amazing effect.
Robert the Bruce is played by Chris Pine. He previously worked with Mackenzie in Hell Or High Water. With a tricky accent to master, Pine does a great job. It is a bold, powerful performance and he carries the dignified presence necessary for this role perfectly. Florence Pugh is brilliant as Elizabeth de Burgh, Roberts wife. However, her role should have been expanded more.
Stephen Dillane, who played Stannis Baratheon in Game Of Thrones plays Edward I. There is also a collection of great Scottish actors cast, who all did a superb job.
The film achieves a solid level of realism, particularly in the battle scenes. It carries an 18 certificate and that is not because you get to see Chris Pine naked! This is a brutal time in history and the fighting scenes are blood-soaked and brutal. Nothing is held back so be warned, if this is not your type of thing, it is probably best to avoid The Outlaw King.
I really wanted to like this film more than I did. Don't get me wrong it is shot amazingly, the cast does an excellent job and there is enough action woven into the historically factual story that should make it work. But for me, there is something missing. It felt like the whole film was several episodes of a Netflix series bolted together. It lacks fluency and ends up feeling disjointed.
The ending is so abrupt that you end up feeling somewhat robbed. Which would be ok if this was a finale in a series that is getting a follow-up, but that is not the case here. As a feature movie on the life of Robert the Bruce, omitting The Battle of Bannockburn or many of his other achievements seems very odd. It left the film feeling like it was rushed or that only a small part of a bigger script had been used.
It is worth watching, just don't expect to see a full story. If the story had been a little more complete it would have been a far better film. So give it a go as long as you are willing to sit for two hours to see a tiny window of a great historical story.