James Douglas (Aaron Taylor-Johnson): I serve Robert Bruce; join us to free our land.
Outlaw King begins with the beautiful shot of a candle burning which I believe is symbolic in the way it represents the continuing fire burning within the Scottish people to revolt against the occupying English army. This symbol could be likened to the context of Scottish Independence today in modern politics with Scotland’s candle still burning…..
But I’m not here to talk about that! Lets get to it!
The film really commences with an incredible single take shot which follows from Robert bending the knee to Edward I up until its revealed this story initiates during the siege of Stirling castle and the unveiling of the massive trebuchet named Warwolf which is used on the castle. In this story this is what re-ignites the fire within Bruce.
Director David Mackenzie and Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (known for United 93, Detroit and Jason Bourne among others) use Scotland to their advantage (unlike the more famous ‘Braveheart’ (Robert Bruces’ nickname) shot in Ireland, I will not talk about this again throughout this review) Mackenzie and Ackroyd employed lots of Drone shots which added to the beautiful aesthetic of the overall film making Scotland a character herself.
The casting was pretty much perfect apart from James and Robert being played by non-Scots. I didn’t think about that too much when watching the film and completely became oblivious to the fact that James was played by an Englishman and Robert a North American. The standout though was Florence Pugh, the way she conveyed her emotions throughout and the chemistry she had with Bruce’s daughter stood out to me. It’s not the first role she has stood out in though check out ‘Lady Macbeth’, ‘BBC King Lear’, ‘The Little Drummer Girl’. Pugh is definitely going places so keep your eyes peeled.
I must also say bravo to David Mackenzie and his attention to detail throughout the historical side of things. For example when Robert Bruce killed John Comyn, why did Bruce kill Comyn? He got in the way of Robert obtaining the Scottish crown. Roberts wife and Daughter both were taken by the English. His brothers hung, drawn and quartered (lovely, I know, but true) I’m not saying everything was accurate and happened at that time portrayed in the film but it was in there and with films you do have to respect that the director can employ some of their own artistic license to add their little intimate details which I agree with in bits and pieces as this film is about revenge and these events added fuel to his fire.
But…..the spider scene was cut.
While hiding in a cave for three months after being defeated in battle Bruce came across a spider, during this time he was at the lowest point in his life and apparently thought about leaving the country and never returning. Then he spotted the spider and it begun to build a web but time after time it fell down however it continued to build its web. This motivated Bruce to regroup with his men and reignite the fight. “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” Watch the deleted scene here:
Then there’s the final battle which is at Loudon Hill. Everyone wanted Bannockburn but why Loudon Hill? At this point in the story Bannockburn will not have taken place just yet, that was much later. Loudon Hill took place not long after the small skirmish at Glentrool (not in the film) therefore making Loudon Hill the better and lesser known battle to take place.
Then the film does a time jump………to after the battle of Bannockburn!!!! I didn’t agree with this move because the director could’ve used that to his advantage. The film is all about revenge then why not continue that in a sequel make a trilogy take your bloody time, I dislike unnecessary time jumps to speed a film along or tv series it’s fricken laziness (looking at you AMC) They could’ve finished up with Bruce planning his next battle while a candle is lit in front of him and he stares into the flame cutting to his wife in the cage over the water. Unfortunately due to the time jump that won’t work unless they do flashbacks….ugh.
Overall I highly recommend this Netflix Film for its story, direction, the beautiful way the battles are shot, Scotland’s portrayal, historical accuracy and oh yeah that not bad Scottish accent from LA Native Chris Pine.
I’d also like to acknowledge the fact that Hollywood is beginning to take a lot more notice in Scotland’s potential which will be great if more and more productions begin to use her in the future or film makers want her beauty on the big screen. I guess the ‘Outlander’ effect is everywhere! Thanks for reading!
Pictures from Netflix Film ‘Outlaw King’
Deleted scene from SR Trailers and Interviews.