Outlaw King, an historical epic and Netflix’s latest original film, premiered on the popular streaming platform this weekend, and already people have a lot of opinions. While some reviews go from bad to worse, others cannot praise this film enough. As for us here at Fiction’s Mistress? We love a good Scottish tale of epic proportions, and there’s no denying that this film is certainly that. It’s visually striking with a good heart, and every performance in this film makes it a film worth watching.
For those of you who don’t know, Outlaw King is the story of Robert the Bruce, played by none other than the incomparable Chris Pine. The film takes place during a turbulent time for Scotland, when King Edward I of England abused his power and occupied Scotland, defeating Sir William Wallace and ending, temporarily, the rebellion. But shortly after his father’s death, Robert the Bruce realized that the country was still torn apart, and would be so long as an English King ruled as he liked. He is crowned and leads at what the time is called a rebellion, fighting not for the land, but for the Scottish people.
To say it is an incredible story would be an understatement, and I must confess it is one I wasn’t familiar with before sitting down to watch this film. It is arguably what Outlaw King should be most proud of. It’s educational in the most exciting of ways. It’s the kind of film that instills this desire, this thirst for more knowledge on these historic events. And perhaps my greatest critique is that Outlaw King was a film rather than a series. With ten, or even six episodes, so much more detail could have been given. While it still makes for a fantastic film, I would’ve loved to see more.
The film takes you through some of the most beautiful sights in Scotland, and does so in an equally beautiful fashion. The cinematography in Outlaw King is truly a work of art, somehow finding a perfect balance between the gruesome and grimy, the intimate and beautiful. In fact, it isn’t only the cinematography, but the film in its entirety that captures this wonderful balance. With its bloody battles come the softest touches. It is both a gory war epic and a touching, heartfelt love story at once. A difficult feat, indeed.
Outlaw King refuses to shy away from violence and grit, but neither does it feature gore for the sake of gore. Each drop of blood shed is done so with purpose, every cringe-worthy shot is there for more than just shock value. For every Scot slain brutally by the English, from the surprise attacks to the hangings, you’ll find tears in your eyes. And that sadness will only grow as you remember that these events actually transpired. And that some of the phrases spoken by Edward I or his son sound all too familiar, as similar ones come from some of our world leaders today. We’re reminded that while we may not be on a bloody, grimy battlefield, it does not mean there isn’t a battle to be won.
While the cinematography, intense battle sequences, and even the music, which captures Scotland’s essence so beautifully, work together to create a good film, it is the cast that makes it great. It is the cast that holds and carries the spirit of this film. Stephen Dillane, who many of you may recognize as Stannis Baratheon from HBO’s Game Of Thrones is easily loathsome as Edward I while Billy Howle, who plays his son, is even more foul. Your hatred toward him will turn to pity by the end, thanks in no small part to his incredibly strong performance. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is wild and merciless as James Douglas, frightening yet extremely likable despite his unforgiving brutality. You can’t help but root for him. But it is the winning combination of Chris Pine and Florence Pugh that truly makes this film an undeniable success.
Chris Pine is unquestionably one of my favourites, and seeing his performance as Robert the Bruce only strengthens my admiration for him. I know what you’ve heard about his Scottish accent, but please, don’t believe it. While it isn’t flawless, it certainly doesn’t take away from the film’s most touching or exciting moments. There are short scenes where it falters, but overall, it’s rather strong, as is his portrayal. And while he is always likable, it is when he is with his wife, Elizabeth, played by Florence Pugh, that he becomes undeniably lovable. The chemistry within this pairing is tangible, making tingles run up your spine as butterflies appear in your stomach. Your heart can’t help but melt with each scene. These two not only bring tears to your eyes, but they bring out the romantics in all of us. They are truly beautiful performances by both actors.
Though some critics have been quick to dub this movie a disappointment, Outlaw King has a strong, good heart. This is a story that will excite, anger, and move you until the very end. Complete with a winning cast and stunning cinematography, Outlaw King is a must-see. That is certain.
Outlaw King Is Streaming Now On Netflix.