As spoiler free as a historical biopic can get.
It was worth the wait! I had stayed up late planning to watch Outlaw King for an early morning review, however by 2am, it still wasn’t available and I fell asleep. As soon as I opened my eyes, I was ready for some Chris Pine as Robert De Bruce, Outlaw King.
Initial reactions? Wow, splendid, better than Braveheart. And I am a huge Braveheart fanatic. This isn’t a comparison review however.
Outlaw King is an epic historical action drama, it starts slow but quickly you are punched in the face with a targe. The costumes are authentic, there’s barely a shred of tartan. This is no shortbread tin production. There are gritty moments and the story takes you through a wave of emotions. You will be anticipating action and you are met with a laugh, there will be joyful scenes followed by a swift disembowelment of your expectations.
The scenery is outstanding. I, however just live down the road from where they filmed parts of it and at multiple times I recognised the mountains and landscape, but that didn’t detract from anything. I was looking for landmarks. It also made me realise how little CGI the filmmakers relied upon. There was breath taking shots, interior and exterior. The use of natural light and the costumes just really made the setting real. It was so convincing, the colours, the language, the characters. Everything was recognisable as Scottish.
Chris Pine’s accent was to be applauded. There wasn’t one moment where you thought, “here what’s that accent?!” There was no cringey dialect and there was also no homogenising of the accents, I really appreciated that as a Scottish person. I could tell when they where in Argyll or Berwick, I could distinguish the English from the Scots and it was unapologetic in it’s honesty.
The history is pretty accurate, I mean for a big blockbuster movie there is obviously artistic licence always granted, but there was nothing that stands out as pure fiction.. I’m sure my brother is gonna tell me otherwise however.
You see, my brother is a battle re-enactor, that’s one of his many jobs. He’s also a historian. Our whole family is really, on a hobby level, we take great interests in the history of our family and several members have done genealogy and family tree research. My brother however, that’s his job. I’ve accompanied him on many film sets and location shoots, we even made a video of him demonstrating the traditional kilt and weapons.
Chris Pine is obviously a great action actor, he has a strong athletic physique and you see a few shots of his nakedness, he’s a convincing 14th Century Bruce. Reluctant and calm, inspiring but not bolshy. The fight choreography is really impressive, there’s no Cinema Sins type commentary that I can think of, no obvious staging, the actors are all into what they are doing. At no point do you think, this isn’t real. Even in the larger group battle scenes with animals and multiple props, with the awe inspiring scenery, unsaturated colouring and costumes, the adrenaline builds up as you ride with warriors. It’s properly thrilling. There’s enough blood and gore to give the impression it was a bloody and gorey time, but it’s not like CGI splatter on the screen and revulsion inducing levels of horror. The brutality is in the storytelling.
Sometimes the visuals were stark, but astounding. This is a beautifully photographic film. There’s some set pieces where it could be an art piece on a wall at a modern highland castle hotel or exclusive retreat. The imagery is only complimented by the evocative score. The music takes you on the journey along with the visuals and exceptional quality of acting. Each character, even not necessarily main characters, all have depth. The extras don’t feel periphery to the story, they feel part of it. The lines remind us of that, there’s so many good quotes.
Overall I have to say, I am so completely in love with this film. Some boats used in the film were from the Galgael, so I was already anticipating an authentic production. This however surpassed all my expectations. The distinction between English and Scottish attire and language, attitudes and politics of the time is properly engaging. After great patience waiting on the release, I watched intently with a critical eye and I was not disappointed. A blockbuster production about Scotland and a Scottish historical figure is always going to excite me, but Outlaw King (available on Netflix from 9 Nov) was also made here, with Scottish social enterprises providing props and Scottish actors, in the Scottish countryside with the main plot being about Scottish independence from an English tyrant.
WATCH THIS MOVIE! 13/14 but only because there wasn’t enough woad.