The Outlaw King tells the story Robert the Bruce a Scottish National Hero, the proclaimed King of Scots in the fourteenth century. Scotland had been oppressed by Edward I, known as the Hammer of the Scotts for many years during a brutal period in history where the Scots 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 Roberts father died, he set out to state his claim to the Scottish Throne successfully claiming the crown in 1306. He eventually went on to successfully gain independence for Scotland with a famous win at the Battle of Bannockburn, he created an independent Scottish Parliment 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.
Direction by David Mackenzie, the film takes a much more historical approach than Braveheart. But I am not sure that it makes this film better for it, Mackenzie has created some great films like Hell or High Water which is a great layered cinematic experience. However, the Outlaw King seems to be missing his usual fluency. Barry Ackroyd heads up Cinematography, Ackroyd has worked on award-winning films such as the Hurt Locker and does a fantastic job in this film capturing the incredible scenery in Scotland with amazing effect.
The cast is led by Chris Pine who had worked with Mackenzie in Hell or High Water. Initially, when I first saw Pine cast in the Role, I had my doubts as there have been countless American actors who have attempted to play Scottish heroes only to turn the role into a comedy show through the most Bizarre accent ever. But Pine does a great job, providing a bold, powerful performance and carries the dignified presence necessary for this role perfectly. Florence Pugh is brilliant as Elizabeth de Burgh, Roberts wife but I could not help feeling that her role should have been expanded more. Stephen Dillane, who played Stannis Baratheon in Game of Thrones plays Edward 1 and whilst he does a great job I could not help to compare his portrayal of Long Shanks to Patrick McGoohan's Edward which I have to say was far better. A good thing to see was the selection of great Scottish actors cast, who all did a superb job.
One thing to note is the realism that this film achieves and that includes the battle scenes, the film carries an 18 certificate and that is not because you get to see Chris Pine naked. David Mackenzie set out to make this as realistic as possible and succeeds in that part. This is a butal part in history, the battle scenes or in fact, any fighting in the film creates a blood-soaked brutal horror scene which holds nothing back so be warned if this is not the type of thing you wish to view it is probably best to avoid it.
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 significant missing which failed to excite me. It felt like the whole film was several episodes of a Netflix series bolted together, totally lacking in fluency it 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 would follow up on the story but that is not the case here. As a feature movie goes on the life of Robert the Bruce, to not give any representation to The Battle of Bannockburn or any of the other achievements made by The Bruce seems very odd. It left the film feeling like it was rushed or almost like the choice was to take a full script and then only use a small part of it.
Overall this movie is well worth watching, just don't expect to see a full story because it is not. It has to be said that if the story had been a little more complete I feel this would have been a far better film and would certainly have got a higher scored than I have given it. There has been no mention of a follow-up film and if there was a clear understanding that this was the first part in a trilogy I would have felt much better at the end. So I would say 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. Would have been better as a series for sure.