OUTLAW KING – Film Review

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.

Outlaw King is a film that I had heard about when it was released, and I actually did have some interest in watching it but for whatever reason, I just did not get around to watching it. But there were a few things about the film that were intriguing me before I saw it.

Firstly, it was directed by David Mackenzie, who previously directed the excellent 2016 Western/thriller Hell or High Water, also starring Pine who does a terrific job in the role of Toby Howard. The second thing about the film that was enticing to me was the fact that it stars Florence Pugh, who is my all-time favorite actress, and as I am sure most of you know, I am currently in the middle of a Florence Pugh movie marathon, watching all of the films starring her that I have not yet seen.

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Florence Pugh as Elizabeth de Burgh in Outlaw King (2018).

But I am genuinely so happy that I decided to check out Outlaw King because it is a fast-paced and relentless thrill-ride that contains some truly powerful performances and adrenaline fueled action sequences that are masterfully directed by Mackenzie. If I am going to be honest, the first act of this movie was a bit slow to me. It seemed like Mackenzie was unsure of where he wanted the film to go and it is a ton of setup and exposition, and some plot elements seemed a bit confusing at the beginning. But as soon as the second act started, everything was making much more sense and it seemed as if the film was finally getting a grasp on where it wanted to go.

Medieval movies have never really been anywhere near my favorite type of film. Yes, there are absolutely a lot of medieval films that are amazing such as Braveheart and Gladiator that genuinely blew me away. But usually I would never go out of my way to watch one of these movies because they just feel the same to me. The plotlines are so similar and they can grow tiresome.

If I were to compare this movie to another medieval movie it would easily have to be Braveheart. A lot of the elements used in Outlaw King feel extremely similar to Braveheart and the similarities became apparent after awhile, and even though I overall enjoyed the story of this film and where it eventually lead to, it isn’t better than those two aforementioned films.

But one of my favorite aspects to Outlaw King is without a doubt all of the performances. Across the board, they are all brilliant, but especially Pine’s performance as Robert the Bruce. I’ve been familiar with Pine and his work for years now but I always saw him as Robert the Bruce during this film. He feels like a completely different person here and his character was one that I was rooting for all the way to the end. You always understand his motivations and his character gets a ton of development throughout, too.

Although like I said, the other actors are also terrific in their roles such as Aaron-Taylor Johnson as James Douglas and Florence Pugh as Elizabeth de Burgh, their characters sadly do feel relatively sidelined compared to Pine’s character especially. They focus so much on Robert the Bruce to the point where some of the others do not get as much time to shine, sadly.

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Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce in Outlaw King (2018).

All of the action sequences here are ferocious, brutal, and wildly entertaining to watch. Something that pleasantly surprised me about it too, was how well filmed everything was. The action is always in camera and it never felt like they were doing the tired “shaky cam” effect which is loathed by myself and many others. Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography was astounding and breathtaking and Mackenzie’s direction was remarkable.

As this is a big, high budget production, this is not going to tell the story of Robert the Bruce exactly as it happened in real life. They of course changed some things to make certain moments feel more theatrical, which a lot of movies do, and it has its positives and negatives. It’s a good thing on the one hand because it makes for a much more entertaining movie, but it’s a bad thing because it is not telling the story as it really happened, which it admittedly should.

But despite a couple of bumps along the way, Outlaw King genuinely impressed me a whole lot. It’s story was almost always moving along and it leads to a third act that feels so earned and is breathlessly exciting, fun, and powerful.

Outlaw King is a remarkably told story with excellent performances, awe-inspiring cinematography and impressively filmed action sequences.

Overall Grade: A-

MPAA Rating: R for sequences of brutal war violence, some sexuality, language and brief nudity

Cast: Chris Pine, Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Florence Pugh, Billy Howle, Sam Spruell, Tony Curran, Callan Mulvey, James Cosmo, Stephen Dillane

Directed by: David Mackenzie

Distributed by: Netflix

Running Time: 121 minutes

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