Outlaw King (2018) movie review
Outlaw King stars Chris Pine as Robert Bruce, the Earl of Carrick who becomes one of the kings of Scotland under Edward I of England, eventually leading a revolt against him following the failed rebellion led by William Wallace. The Netflix original film is in many ways a spiritual successor to Braveheart (1995) as well, not only continuing the story, but holding a fairly similar tone. Unfortunately though, while Outlaw King is certainly not bad, it doesn’t hold a candle to Braveheart, or even the potential it sets up in the film itself.
Outlaw King reminds me of a college paper written by somebody who knows how to write well, but instead of taking works of research and digging into them, they simply lift a few quotes and make a less than stellar attempt for a passing grade. While this film is good on a number of aspects, overall there are several missed beats and opportunities that hurt the overall narrative and even quality. For one, it takes obviously heavy inspiration from Game of Thrones (2011-2019). While that sounds absolutely perfect for a fresh perspective to tell the story through, it only ever reaches surface-level, featuring plenty of supporting characters, but not enough time to get to know them, a realistically gritty style that often comes off as sudden in a 2-Hour film, and an action sequence that tries hard to be the Battle of the Bastards, but misses everything about what makes that sequence incredible. I’m not saying that all these things are terrible, but these issues are frequent throughout the film, and tacking on another 30 minutes or just focusing on intention a bit more would have gone a long way.
On the flip side of that, the strive for a realistically gritty and more dry tone goes a long way in stirring emotion, as often sudden events happen in very atypical fashion, opting for blunt instead of cinematic. This absolutely works, and leads to plenty of uneasy tension, relatable characters, and great pacing. The performances are also great, with leads Chris Pine, Stephen Dillane, Rebecca Robin, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson all delivering authentic performances that never feel over the top. I thought Pine and Dillane especially worked well carrying depth and subtext in characters that had more important obligations than to stop and be emotional.
So honestly, Outlaw King is not bad, even if it has some bad in it, and it’s not great, even if it has some great in it. So many elements like the score and production design work, but get overshadowed by some bad choices made with good intent. More often than not, that intent totally works, crafting a movie that honestly feels more real than it should. So if you want a Game of Thrones/Revenant (2015) sequal to Braveheart that isn’t as good as any of those things, but is both entertaining, engaging, and led by great performances, Outlaw King is absolutely worth your time! However the film still has so much that hurts the overall narrative, and ending in such a messy battle doesn’t help the film’s quality stand out. However opening with a pretty great long-take does. Honestly though, as much as I enjoyed it, some of the messy elements makes it hard to get behind. 6/10. It’s good, check it out it. (And yeah, that TV-MA rating is pretty deserving too, so do your homework before you watch it…)
-review by Ryan Prince