Netflix’s 'Outlaw King' Isn’t All That Great
Outlaw King is a film directed by Scottish director David Mackenzie, about the true events of the Scottish rebellion led by Robert the Bruce in 1304. The film is in a sense, the spiritual successor to the 1995 hit film Braveheart, as Outlaw King takes place immediately after the fall of the rebellion led be William Wallace. The film does a good job of presenting beautiful imagery through a serious and bloody plot. Though the film is lacking in some respects like with its characters and pacing, it more than makes up for it, in its beautiful cinematography.
The film takes place right after the defeat of William Wallace and his rebellion. Scotland is shortly run by England who immediately imposes heavy taxes, murders anyone who stands against them, and drafts civilians for their army. The story follows Robert the Bruce as he decides to reignite the rebellion and stop England’s horrible rule over Scotland. Bruce has to gather his army, convince them to go into war once again, all while trying to prove that he is fit to be the king of Scotland.
One of the big faults in this film are the characters in it. While the film introduces a wide variety of characters, it makes only a few of them memorable in any way. Characters like Bruce are well developed with clear goals and personalities,while the rest are very one dimensional, just another bearded man who wants to help Bruce. Whenever a character dies and an emotional scene is supposed to follow; the audience really can’t feel sad cause we don’t know who the character is. For instance near the end of the film during the big battle one of the characters Drew Forfar dies and it a sad scene but he barely had any presence in the film, that its hard to even remember what his name was let alone feel sad about him dying. All of the supporting characters simply feel like ways to help bring out more of Bruce’s character. The only upside to this is the performances given by the talented actors like Paul Blair who played William Lamberton and Aaron Taylor-Johnson who player William Douglas. Through the film, these two characters are the only one’s that really seem to have any importance and character to them. With Douglas having some backstory of wanting to prove his family’s name.
Bruce is one of the only characters in the plot that has any real character to him. He truly carries the burden of all of Scotland on his shoulders as he has to put aside his emotions time and time again, at the loss of not only his friends but also his family, to make the right decisions and to defeat the English army. That burden can be seen weighing down on him throughout the film as he reacts to situations less and less gracefully.
Another problem the film faces is how events just kind of occur at random with little to no warning. While in some films this can be used to keep viewers on the edge of their seat, here it just feels jarring, since there is no sense of time throughout the film. The movie takes place over the course of three years, but the viewer can’t tell because all the events feel like they are taking place a few days apart from each other; because of that, every event seems to be random. It just seems like the film is focusing only on its action scenes without giving us a proper way to learn about its vast list of characters or see how the people of Scotland react to these huge battles that kill hundreds of people.
What the story lacks in some aspects it more then makes up for in the cinematography. Every scene is beautiful with amazing background and insert shots of the vast landscape. . Another part of the cinematography that is done well is its use of shot choices that end up really adding to each of the characters personalities during each scene. This is done through its use of close ups on one single character during the entire conversation even when multiple people are talking. This can be seen during the boat scene, when Douglas talks to Bruce about revenge, throughout the conversation Bruce’s face is always the one that’s in focus with the attention obviously being drawn to him. The fight scenes are edited together so that the action feels fast paced and barbaric, while managing to display a massive amount of bloodshed .
Outlaw King is a very entertaining movie to watch with a lot to offer. Amazing fight scenes, beautiful settings, and impressive acting, but that’s not enough to cover up its plot which seems to just be fight after fight with little to no time to relax and side characters that seem to have no real character behind them and are just there to fight.