By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Four Beers) –
This story of Scottish nobleman Robert the Bruce and his rise to power begins with defeat. Robert and his kinsman have just lost an eight year-long war with the English and are pledging fealty to the king. Robert’s father dies shortly after, and when the news of the execution of fellow rebel William Wallace spreads, Robert sees how this affects the population and realizes the rebellion they ended just recently is far from over. He soon sets out to re-start the war, but after a particularly embarrassing ambush that destroys what was left of his army, he goes into hiding and begins slowly re-assembling his forces to mount a more subtle and nuanced form of attack against his English overlords.
“Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!”
Outlaw King is a sort of unofficial sequel to the 1997 epic Braveheart, which told the story of William Wallace and featured Robert the Bruce as a secondary character. Where Braveheart was bombastic and overwrought, Outlaw King seeks to take a more subtle approach. I credit the filmmakers for the intricate set design and detailed research into this period accurate production. The cinematography is also quite compelling, with the Scottish Highlands seldom having appeared more vivid and hauntingly beautiful.
For a film that clearly feels like it set out to be smarter than Braveheart, they seem to have missed a few beats in terms of defining exactly what that should look like. With characters for instance, they seem to have decided to underplay them to the point of cyphers. At no point in the movie do people’s motivations get revealed. Instead scene after scene of dialogue exists simply to movie this story forward. There is little time given to building the motivations and relationships of the principal cast, leaving the story feeling drab and stuffy.
Or wet and muddy…
Supposedly 20+ minutes of footage was excised from this film, and it shows via a series of time jumps that throw off the movie’s pacing considerably. This may also account for some lack of character development. But mainly it feels as if the movie is missing elements connecting points A-B. This is usually left to be resolved by expository dialogue, which should never be the crutch by which your movie is propped up.
While Outlaw King is not necessarily a bad movie, it simply refuses to take off and become anything greater. As a result this ends up feeling like a missed opportunity. Historical drama is a difficult area of cinema to do right, perhaps because of the budget and scope required to fulfill it placing heavy limitations on filmmakers?
These battle scenes won’t film themselves!
Whereas Braveheart features overacting and obvious historical inaccuracies, Outlaw King lacks character development and feels underplayed and underwritten… Pick your poison I guess?
Outlaw King (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time someone angrily shouts “Bruce”
Take a Drink: when Christ Pine’s Scottish accent slips
Take a Drink: when you detect an obvious editing time-jump
Do a Shot: for war film clichés (pre-battle speeches, two enemies finding each other in the middle of a melee, etc)