It’s 1304 in Scotland and Edward I, the King of England, has defeated the Scotish uprising and Sir William Wallace, who has gone into hiding. The last of the Scotish lords are being forced to renew their vows to support Edward I or suffer the consequences of being a traitor to the King.
As the film opens up, we see Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick (Chris Pine) kneeling with his head bowed and his hands inside the hands of King Edward I of England (Stephen Dillane). King Edward is making Robert Bruce go through a long vow of pledging that he will obey the King and no longer fight for Scotish independence. It is obvious that King Edward is enjoying putting Robert Bruce through this long, torturous vow. The King tells Robert that he is showing mercy on Robert because Robert’s father saved the King in a battle years ago. The King finally lets Robert go, and as the King lectures the Scotish lords in front of him, Robert’s father (James Cosmo) remarks to Robert how the ceremony ‘wasn’t that bad.’ The King calls for Robert Bruce and John Comyn (Callan Mulvey) to step forward, telling them that both have claimed to the Scottish crown but that Edward will not be giving the crown to either man and will rule Scotland himself. The King makes the two men shake hands and commands everyone to drink.
Robert grabs a drink and heads outside where he is stopped by Edward (Billy Howle), the Prince of Wales and the son of the King. The two men reminisce on how they used to play with wooden swords. Edward challenges Robert to a duel right then and there, with the winner winning ten pounds. Robert and Edward begin dueling, and it is evident that Edward feels that he is better than Robert, both in sword fighting and in social standing. At first, it is Edward as the aggressor and is winning the fight. Edward goes on about how Willam Wallace is in hiding and that he considers him to be a madman. Robert gets a second wind and begins to win the match when a servant interrupts the fight and tells Edward his father wants to see him. It is apparent that Edward does not enjoy being summoned and sulks off to find his father. We go back inside the tent, and Robert’s father is joking with the King. The King tells Edward that he is silly to do a duel as he has duties to attend to.
The King is told he has one last petitioner for getting his land back, a Sir James Douglas (Aaron Taylor Johnson) who asks that his father’s estate be restored to him. The King calls Sir Douglas’s father a traitor, refuses the petition and has the man thrown out. The King heads outside and declares that the war is finally over. He has just one more demonstration, a giant catapult aimed at a castle in the distance. Edward, with the Scotish lords looking on, has the ammo lit and then fires the massive catapult, setting fire to a portion of the castle. The King wants to make sure that the Scotish lords understand that the surrender is final with this demonstration. The English soldiers cheer and start to sing. The King tells the Scotish lords that they are now on the winning side and then tells Robert he is proud of him. Robert looks at the burning castle, and we can tell he is uneasy with this decision, a decision that he may not be able to live with.
Thus starts the ‘Outlaw King’ a movie that is basically a sequel to’ Brave Heat.’ as Robert Bruce does what Sir William Wallace couldn’t, ultimately leading a much smaller force against the largest and best army in the world, defeating it and giving Scotland its independence. The look of this film is amazing. I have no idea of the budget of this film, but it had to be huge. Incredible costumes and mountains of extras fill the screen. The battle sequences are spectacularly choreographed, with the hand to hand fighting bloody, savage and realistic. It’s an impressive looking film, and the cinematography by Barry Ackroyd adds to overall look and feel of the film being a big spectacle.
David Mackenzie director of a film that I really liked, ‘Hell or High Water.’ directs this film and co-wrote it with four other writers (never a good sign when you have that many writers). Mackenzie is let down by a meandering storyline that never finds its footing. While there are two spectacular battle sequences, an incredible night battle in the first third of the film and the final battle sequence that is amazing to watch, the film loses all momentum when Robert’s new wife, the headstrong Elizabeth de Burgh (Florence Pugh), is separated from her husband. The dynamic between the Scotish King and his wife by an arraigned marriage is fun to watch as the two characters feel each other out, getting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
I loved the chemistry between Pine and Pugh, as their characters slowly get to know each other. Pine’s Scotish accent is passable but other than the action sequences, which we know he can excel at, he is let down by some very choppy dialogue. I disliked the performance by Billy Howle, who needed to dial back the performance of the hot-headed Prince Edward, it’s just too over the top for my taste.
Outlaw King, while spectacular looking and with big, beautiful battle sequences, is let down by a script that never finds it’s voice or footing, making it feel longer than its 2 hours run time.
My Rating: Bargain Matinee
Mike’s rating system from best to worst:
1). I Would Pay to See it Again
2). Full Price
3). Bargain Matinee
5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again