Outlaw King review: A bloody brilliant start on Robert the Bruce’s history

OUTLAW KING -- Acquired via Netflix Media Center
OUTLAW KING -- Acquired via Netflix Media Center /

It was never going to be easy to cover the start of Robert the Bruce’s journey to become king. How did Outlaw King manage in what felt like an Outlander reunion?

Outlaw King was something put on my radar thanks to Outlander‘s own Ian Murray. Steven Cree tweeted relentless, rightfully proud of his movie with Chris Pine. The look at Robert the Bruce becoming the “Outlaw King” was just a start in the tremendous history.

While rushed in parts, overall the movie did a good job. It did feel a little like an Outlander reunion in parts but I’ll admit that it was a lot better than I expected — Okay, I was basing it off Braveheart, which I continually laugh at the extreme inaccuracies throughout. It wasn’t going to be hard to beat that.

I’ll start with the bad and then go into the good about Outlaw King. I can never keep these reviews spoiler-free, so if you haven’t watched it yet, I suggest this post about the trailer to whet your appetite on things you’ll see.

OUTLAW KING — Photo credit: David Eustace — Acquired via Netflix Media Center
OUTLAW KING — Photo credit: David Eustace — Acquired via Netflix Media Center /

A little too much to fit in

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The only real downside throughout the movie was the rushed pace. I didn’t feel the connection between Robert and his wife Elizabeth or really the connection between Robert and his daughter Margery. There just wasn’t enough time to build this bond.

Of course, the movie was never about them. It was about Robert becoming the King of Scotland. But, in a way, it was about them. At one point, the only thing that drove him forward was getting his wife and daughter back.

Many have said that this could have been good as a mini-series and I’m inclined to agree. Knowing that there were 20 minutes cut out of the movie suggests that there was more to tell and a mini-series would have been a better way of tackling the story.

However, the lack of connection didn’t take away from the actual reasoning behind the tale. It was still possible to understand the civil unrest throughout Scotland and what drove him to fight against England and against the oath he’d made on King Edward’s Bible.

Okay, so I guess the feel of an Outlander reunion could be considered a bad thing, but I actually enjoyed seeing the actors in different roles. There were two that stood out: Duncan Lacroix as Henry de Percy and Clive Russell as Lord Mackinnon of Skye.

Characterization is just what I expected

I’ll admit that history is a passion of mine but I’ve never really looked into Robert the Bruce’s history. In fact, I get to about King Edward III’s history and stop going backward. It’s just not my area of expertise. But I know enough to know the basics of everything that happened; of the people shown.

One thing that helped was visiting the Battle of Bannockburn site for its 500th anniversary of the battle. This gave an insight into the man that would become king, along with the military strategy, the support, and the English army.

From all that I have learned, the characterization of all involved was just what I expected. Most importantly, Edward II was the conniving but weak Prince of Wales that I expected him to be. The fact his father had no belief in Edward II’s ability to rule was believable and I’m glad it’s something that was kept in.

Elizabeth was the dutiful wife. While I didn’t quite appreciate the connection between the two of them, I could see it growing and there was promise. I also viewed her as a typical woman of her time, strong-willed but dutiful and loyal. This shone through the moment she said that she would choose Robert regardless of the side he would fight on.

And I’ll just say here that Florence Pugh was enigmatic and the perfect woman for the role. I had high hopes after seeing her in King Lear, but she surpassed my thoughts and has put her on my list of actresses to watch in the future. She brought the character of Elizabeth to life and you could feel every single emotion she felt.

Chris Pine did an excellent job as Robert. His Scottish accent was one of the best I’ve heard Americans put on. He was softly spoken and easy to understand, helping me to connect with the character far more than I expected I would. He had his funny moments, but you could also see the love he had for his family; and the guilt he felt as he lost his brothers.

A graphic tale, not for the weak of stomachs

I know the graphic violence is something that many have complained about. For me, it was just right. This was Scotland had the time of extreme unrest. William Wallace was a brilliant idea and had been executed as a commoner. This was outrageous to the Scottish people since he was a Lord in the Scottish courts but the English refused to acknowledge that.

There was plenty of blood and guts spilled throughout the movie, showing the realities of life. When one of Robert’s brothers was hanged and his body cut open, I cringed for the young Margery, who Elizabeth helped shield from the horrors.

Then there was the battle. There was plenty of blood spray, reminding me of the likes of Game of Thrones and Vikings. Because I watch those two shows, it didn’t feel over the top. It was expected. However, Outlaw King offered a more artistic way of doing it. This wasn’t all blood for the sake of it, but the gore was at strategic points.

You could tell that this was a passion project for director David Mackenzie. He wanted to make sure that his love was shown on screen. I just wish there was more time to tell the full tale.

What I will say is THANK YOU for not putting the Scots in kilts. It was a major inaccuracy of Braveheart that I’m thankful was fixed in this. While there may have been other inaccuracies along the way, they didn’t distract. In fact, the movie made me more interested in delving into the life of this “Outlaw King.”

Next. 5 reasons Outlander fans will want to watch Mary, Queen of Scots. dark

What did you think of Outlaw King? Is this a movie you’ll watch again? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Outlaw King is available on Netflix.