Movie Review: “Outlaw King”
When Scotland is left without an heir to the Scottish throne, Edward King of England (Stephen Dillane) is chosen to appoint a new king of Scotland. Rather than appoint a new king like he was asked, King Edward decides to invade Scotland and absorb the land into his rule. The war lasted eight years, but has finally reached it's conclusion with England being victorious. The leaders of Scotland have accepted King Edward's terms to facilitate peace, but Robert Bruce (Chris Pine) is starting a rebellion to take back control of his homeland.
In igniting a new rebellion, Robert Bruce has been recognized (by the people of Scotland) as King of Scots. In this new role, Robert Bruce struggles with protecting his family, the importance of chivalry, and risking the lives of good men. Robert Bruce must find a way to work out all of these issues as a leader, and must do so while at war with the nearly unstoppable English army. England’s army is a force to be reckoned with, but Robert’s army is filled with men desperate to preserve their nation’s freedom. Unfortunately, the outlaw king and his army are severely outnumbered, so they will need more than their righteous passion to succeed.
The Pros & Cons
Chris Pine (+5pts)
Edward & The Dragon Banner (-4pts)
Slow Start (-4pts)
The Action (+8pts)
The Battle, Not the War (-3pts)
Pro: Chris Pine (+5pts)
Chris Pine gives a decent performance here. It is not exactly memorable, but he is able to say a lot with his eyes, and with his facial expression. The character never explains what is going on in his head, but I could see what the character was feeling. It is not a performance that will stand out, but his subtle performance adds a lot of layers to his character. Layers that were not written into the story, but layers that give the story depth and will keep viewers watching. The script did not give him much to blatanty showcase his talent, but his portrayal added a lot to this movie, and Chris Pine definitely deserves praise for that.
Con: Edward & The Dragon Banner (-4pts)
Edward (Billy Howle) was setup as the primary antagonist, but did not really do much in opposition of Robert. He led the men of The Dragon Banner who were setup as the baddest men that England’s army had to offer. Unfortunately, they did not do much either. Edward is the son of King Edward and heir to England’s throne, but he spends the whole movie talking about what he is going to do, and never actually does anything noteworthy. While Edward and The Dragon Banner are setup as Robert‘s primary obstacle, the majority of the movie is spent showing Robert going up against another leader in the English army.
The other guy is Aymer de Valence (Sam Spruell) who essentially shares the role as primary antagonist, but gets no development at all. Edward gets some development, but the result is two protagonists who are very one-dimensional and are just evil for the sake of being evil. The main issue here was that there was a lot of story to tell, and not enough screentime for both of these characters. By trying to make them both fit, both characters suffered.
Pro: Chivalry (+6pts)
No, I do not mean that a bunch of guys held a bunch of doors open for a bunch of gals. What I liked was that this movie explored chivalry in the context of medieval warfare. I liked seeing how chivalry was incorporated into Robert’s storyline. Robert is respectful and honorable, even towards his enemies.
The movie explores what it means to be chivalrous in war, as well as what could force a man to abandon a chivalrous mentality. Robert starts out chivalrous, but he is repeatedly pushed closer and closer to his breaking point. What do you do when you care about honor and respect on the battlefield, but your opponents do not share that mindset? What do you do when abandoning chivalry pays off for your enemies? Robert’s development felt natural because of what he was up against, and I liked seeing this character pushed to the limits of what he was willing to tolerate.
Con: Slow Start (-4pts)
Once the movie got going, I liked it, but it took a little while to get there. I got the impression that there was too much story to tell in this movie. It definitely would have been better suited for a Netflix series as opposed to a one-off movie. For example, the movie starts at the conclusion of an eight-year war. Rather than show any of that war or what led to it, which would have been interesting, the movie starts with a bunch of guys vowing not to fight each other.
We do not know any of them or what they were fighting for, so the vow of peace means very little. Then there are a bunch of scenes of random dialogue between characters we do not know, only for those characters to decide to break the vow of peace that kicked off the movie. It just felt like the whole beginning was pointless. One pointless scene after another, that could have been impactful if we knew the characters in them, but we did not. Once it gets going, it gets good. I just think the filmmakers started the movie in the wrong spot (or should have made it into a series with more time to flesh everything out).
Pro: The Action (+8pts)
I am not going to lie, I did not expect much from the action in Outlaw King, but the filmmakers actually did a really good job with it. There was plenty of it, and it was awesome while it was happening. Each action sequence was unique, in one way or another, from the rest, but they were all brutal in the best way. There was not unnecessary gore, nor was the action anywhere near that of a PG rating. Simply put, the action hit a sweet spot of brutality, realistism, and entertainment.
Con: The Battle, Not the War (-3pts)
I am going to keep this brief because it is in reference to the ending of the movie. My issue with it, is that the movie ends with the conclusion of a battle. The movie does not end with the conclusion of the war. The ending does not feel like it concluded anything, then there is a bunch of text that pops up explaining the fates of all the characters who are still alive.
I said that the movie started in the wrong spot, but the same was true for the ending. There really was too much story to tell in one movie. It would have been better suited for a series that could start and end the story properly. It is a shame because this was a good story, the filmmakers just chose a lousy way to tell it.
Grade: B- (83pts)
Outlaw King had a slow start, and a slightly disappointing conclusion, but I liked it. The major problem with this movie was that there was way too much story to tell here. The whole movie is based on real events, and the filmmakers decided to form the foundation of this story from text that would appear at the start of the film that would explain what happened in the eight years before. The same method is used for the end. The filmmakers kind of just picked a spot to end the movie, then threw text on the screen to explain what happened to all the characters after.
This was a pretty lazy way to make this story. Rather than make this a limited series that could explain everything, or make the story able to stand on its own, the filmmakers gave us a ton of screen text that does not allow the audience to connect with the characters. The result is a movie with a boring beginning, and one-dimensional main characters. The action was surprisingly great and very entertaining, and Chris Pine added a ton of depth to his character (and indirectly the movie as well). I ranted on my issues with the plot, but it is important to know that once the movie gets going (after about twenty to thirty minutes) it gets really good. I was very entertained by this movie. It has great action, takes an interesting look at the meaning of chivalry, and has a strong performance by the lead actor. It is a decent movie that is definitely worth checking out.