Outlaw King
dir David Mackenzie
prd Gillian Berrie
scr Mark Bomback, Bathsheba Doran, David Harrower, James MacInnes, David Mackenzie
with Chris Pine, Florence Pugh, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Stephen Dillane, Billy Howle, Tony Curran, Sam Spruell, James Cosmo, Callan Mulvey, Jack Greenlees, Josie O'Brien, Jenny Hulse
release US/UK 9.Nov.18
18/UK 1h57
Outlaw King
On the move: Taylor-Johnson and Pine

pugh dillane howle
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Outlaw King David Mackenzie brings the historical saga of Robert the Bruce to life with a sharp mix of introspective drama and epic-scale grandeur. This makes the film both darkly involving and gorgeous to look at, although the emotions are somewhat elusive and the narrative perspective never quite comes into focus. But the drama is strong, and the battles are enjoyably messy and grisly, even if they're also rather choppy.

In 1302 Scotland, the lords of the land have pledged uneasy loyalty to England's King Edward (Dillane), whose cruelty leads Robert (Pine) to fight for independence. His rival for the Scottish throne (Mulvey) refuses to join him, and things take a desperate turn as Edward's son (Howle) and henchman (Spruell) engage Robert's dwindling band of rebels in increasingly ruthless skirmishes. This also threatens his daughter Marjorie (O'Brien) and his feisty new wife Elizabeth (Pugh). So as the English resort to increasingly barbaric attacks, Robert's army and resolve strengthen.

This film may be more exciting to those who don't know how history went down. Thankfully, Mackenzie resists the temptation to force a Hollywood narrative structure on the story, even as he indulges in the usual war movie beats. More interesting is the subtle drama gurgling through each scene, as Robert grapples with the ramifications of his role as king, drawing on the intelligence and loyalty of his wife, brothers and hardcore sidekicks like Taylor-Johnson's James Douglas and Curran's Angus MacDonald.

The strong characters make the elaborately staged battle sequences feel almost like filler. Pine is solid in the focal role, thoughtful and intriguing, if perhaps too much of an everyman style of monarch. It's an engaging performance, even if it doesn't banish questions of why a Scottish actor wasn't cast in the role. Meanwhile, the show-stealing role belongs to Pugh, who adds soul and subtlety to every scene. Taylor-Johnson is also terrific as the wild-eyed Douglas. And Howle tries to add texture to the somewhat one-note villain of the piece.

In the end, the film finds a few echoes of present-day resonance in the Scottish independence movement and the global struggle to reclaim democracy. And it remains consistently entertaining, with a range of vivid people, moments of earthy humour and some visceral action. There may not be much about the film that feels fresh or original, but at least Mackenzie avoids the usual rousing speeches and sentimental patriotism, opting instead for a more human approach.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 17.Oct.18 lff

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Outlaw King Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.

© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall