Time: 121 Minutes
Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as James Douglas
Florence Pugh as Elizabeth de Burgh
Billy Howle as Edward, Prince of Wales
Tony Curran as Angus MacDonald
Lorne MacFadyen as Nigel Bruce
Alastair Mackenzie as Lord Atholl
James Cosmo as Robert de Brus
Callan Mulvey as John III Comyn
Stephen McMillan as Drew Forfar
Paul Blair as Bishop Lamberton
Stephen Dillane as King Edward I of England
Director: David Mackenzie
After being crowned King of Scotland, legendary warrior Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) is forced into exile by the English and leads a band of outlaws to help him reclaim the throne.
I heard about Outlaw King for a while. It’s a Netflix movie about Robert the Bruce starring Chris Pine and was directed by David Mackenzie, who made Hell or High Water. I didn’t know much about the subject matter or really what to expect going in outside of that. Despite hearing some mixed things about it, I actually really liked it. It’s on such a large scale and was directed incredibly well, and the cast are fantastic. It is held back rom being as great as it could’ve been by the lack of characterisation and the ending, but it’s nonetheless a really good movie and are well worth the watch.
Outlaw King is 2 hours long but it’s worth noting that 20 minutes were cut from the cut that was first screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, after the runtime and pacing were criticised in early reviews. Apparently, the cut material included a battle scene, a major confrontation backdropped by a waterfall, an eight minute chase sequence and a scene in which Robert the Bruce met William Wallace in the woods. As I didn’t watch the 2 hour and 20 minute cut, I can’t speak to what the removed footage is like or how it worked in the movie. On the whole I was actually liking the movie quite a bit, I didn’t get why some people were having a problem with it. I didn’t really know what to expect with the movie and I followed it pretty well from start to finish, I was invested. One problem that occurred to me however over time was that they weren’t particularly great with the characterisation. This movie definitely seems more plot focussed than character focussed, and the characters here were more used to move the plot forward. We don’t really get to learn much about the characters and people and are really instead just watching them doing things. That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy watching them or anything like that, but that’s probably because of the heavy lifting done by the cast. It turns out that Outlaw King had like 5 writers, the plot had my interest and all that but the whole movie wasn’t quite great.. I heard a criticism about it being some inaccuracies, but I don’t know much about Robert the Bruce or anything like that, so I’ve really got nothing to say on the matter. Then there’s the ending, which is really abrupt. At the end of the movie there’s a battle scene and then after it ends it has these subtitles that pop on screen to explain what happened afterwards, there’s like maybe another brief scene and that’s it. Kind of a disappointing end to an otherwise mostly solid movie.
Despite the characters not really receiving much development and all that, the cast is great and elevated their parts quite a bit. Chris Pine is typically great in the lead role as Robert the Bruce, Pine has now given two of his all time best performances through working with David Mackenzie (the other performance being in Hell or High Water), and I really hope they continue working with each other. He’s quite believable in the role he’s playing (full disclosure, don’t know much about Robert the Bruce) and he pulls off the Scottish accent really well. He’s also very impressive in the big battle scenes. The rest of the cast including Florence Pugh, Billy Howle, Tony Curran, Stephen Dillane and really every actor in this movie do great jobs in their roles. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is actually a standout here, he’s in a rather unhinged role and he particularly shone in the more violent scenes. Both Nocturnal Animals and now Outlaw King have proven ATJ as an actor not to underestimate or overlook.
David Mackenzie showed himself to be a great director with Hell or High Water, and Outlaw King only solidified this. This movie is on such a huge scale, everything from the production design, the costumes, the locations, all of that was fantastic. The cinematography was also great. One of the stand out moments of the movie was the first scene, which is an 8 minute long take and it was immaculately done. Where the film particularly shone was in the big battle scenes, they don’t hold back at all with the violence and as I said, so much was on a large scale. In that, I feel like it should’ve been released in cinemas instead of Netflix, definitely try to watch this one on the biggest screen that you can find.
Outlaw King is maybe not quite as great as it could’ve been with aspects with the characters and the endings not being done all that well, but it was almost at that level. The cast were great and David Mackenzie directed it all incredibly well. It’s well worth the watch, and is one of Netflix’s better released films.