David Mackenzie has repeatedly emphasized in interviews that his film, Outlaw King, is not a sequel to Braveheart. While it may not be in the same league as Gibson’s blockbuster, it is certainly a cinematic experience that demands a big screen or high-quality television, and Netflix doesn’t disappoint in this aspect. From the first shot, we are transported to Scotland in the early 14th century, where local leaders are cornered by the English king. Any form of resistance leads to a swift and public execution.
The film quickly establishes the harsh conditions of 14th-century Scotland, replete with mud and disease, where survival is a constant struggle. In this gritty landscape, Chris Pine’s striking eyes initially seem out of place, as everyone else appears as though they’ve just completed a day’s work in the fields. However, after thirty minutes of meticulous world-building, Mackenzie’s intentions become clear. Outlaw King aims to educate while entertaining, offering an accessible history lesson not just for Scottish patriots but for anyone who knows of Robert the Bruce only peripherally. The first half-hour is particularly engaging, filled with intricate political intrigues acted out by an experienced cast. Pine’s compelling charisma skillfully conveys Robert’s complex morality.
Mackenzie is unafraid to show his hero’s flaws, a wise choice considering the limited time available for extensive character development. Chris Pine’s Robert is mostly revealed through his interactions with his empathetic new wife, played by Florence Pugh. In other scenes, his actions speak louder than words. If you’re a fan of intense action and underdog stories, you’ll find Outlaw King satisfying. Mackenzie, working with a generous budget and minimal interference from producers, delivers a film with a gritty, authentic feel, whether it’s mud or blood. The action scenes are visceral and uncensored, featuring flesh-and-blood characters rather than digital creations.
The film evokes a nostalgic vibe reminiscent of ’90s cinema, which often showcased more straightforward and sincere storytelling. However, Mackenzie occasionally stumbles in his pacing. Unlike his American film, Hell or High Water, which is a remarkable character study, Outlaw King falls short in its erratic jumps between locations. Some editing choices, possibly influenced by festival reviews, leave gaps that are hard to ignore. Transitions, particularly between the second and third acts, are jarring. Side characters, like Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s unforgettable Douglas, sometimes outshine Pine’s Robert, especially in emotionally charged scenes.
Despite these flaws, Mackenzie’s efforts pay off. The slow build-up in the first thirty minutes allows for a smoother narrative flow later on, providing context for certain developments. The film succeeds in its gritty, realistic portrayal of a time and place devoid of fantastical elements, making it more appealing to me than the highly stylized Game of Thrones. Although it may not have fully realized its potential, Outlaw King is another testament to Mackenzie’s talent and one more reason to keep an eye on Netflix’s offerings.
In conclusion, debating whether Outlaw King belongs in cinemas or on small screens does it a disservice. The film stands up to stringent cinematic standards; its primary hurdle is the inevitable comparison to Braveheart. While Gibson’s film may have more visual flair, emotional resonance, and nostalgic power, Mackenzie’s take offers a more nuanced understanding of British history. In an age lacking in uncompromising, gritty dramas, Outlaw King is a refreshing addition.
Watch Outlaw King For Free On Gomovies.