By Dave B.
Outlaw King (Netflix) is loosely based on the rebellion of Scotland’s Robert the Bruce against King Edward I of England. The film begins with the Scottish nobles defeated and humiliated by Edward, forced to pledge allegiance to the English Crown after the defeat of William Wallace’s rebellion. Soon, events conspire to force Robert to reconsider his allegiance (obtained partially under duress), claim the throne of Scotland for himself, and launch a guerilla war against the English occupation of Scotland.
Like many historical dramas, Outlaw King has a very…creative interpretation of facts and only a tenuous sense of historical accuracy. However, as it’s supposed to be entertaining and not educational, that’s alright as far as I’m concerned, so long as the movie in question is actually entertaining. In the case of Outlaw King, it’s entertainment value is open to debate. The film is usually good to look at. It combines good (but unconventional) cinematography and solid choreography to create gruesome battles and bold imagery that succeeds at holding viewers’ attention.
Unfortunately, Outlaw King’s script is fairly lifeless, which is a shame, as this movie covers some of the more interesting conflicts and personalities in late-medieval European history. A big part of the problem is that Outlaw King decides to largely ignore the concepts of character and relationship development. In the film, people and their interpersonal dynamics just are as they are or just come into being somewhat spontaneously. A bigger part of the problem is Chris Pine’s interpretation of Robert the Bruce. Pine plays Robert in a very understated manner. He doesn’t deliver a poor performance, but when he’s onscreen (which is most of the time) and not in a battle, his stoic moroseness saps the energy from scenes.
I kinda like Outlaw King, but not enough to recommend it. It’s 121 minutes long and most of that time doesn’t inspire emotional engagement. Not even decent battles and some powerful symbolism can overcome the fact that Outlaw King is more easily seen than experienced. If you’re a diehard Chris Pine fan, you may really enjoy this movie, but if you’re mostly looking for an immersive historical drama, you can safely give Outlaw King a pass.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.