“The Outlaw King” comes to the big screen under the direction of Scotsman David Mackenzie. He undertook the challenge of portraying Scotland’s ongoing battle for independence. The film stars Chris Pine as Robert the Bruceand strives to continue the story after the execution of William Wallace in the 14th century.
He sets his sights on becoming the King of Scotland despite the protests and disapproval of local nobles. After winning the crown, King Robert begins amassing an army to go against the enemies forces. Acting as a politician, Robert also determines to convince King Edward I of his loyalty while not losing the trust and respect of his fellow countrymen. He takes Elizabeth de Burgh from England as his bride in hopes of demonstrating his allegiance. However, the plot soon fails and the fighting resumes.
Outnumbered by the English army under the rule of King Edward I, King Robert must wage a cunning act of guerrilla warfare if the Scots have any hope of gaining a victory. Some of his tactics included luring the English soldiers into muddy, slimy pits filled with sharpened wooden spikes. Mud flies along with the bloodshed on both sides, as warriors on foot and horseback wield halberds and swords against each other. Some may find the film too gory and realistic. Others appreciate the authenticity of the period.
Pine’s King Robert is portrayed as a brooding, gruff, intelligent strategist who exudes confidence. The cast also includes Aaron Taylor-Johnson as fellow Scot warrior James Douglas. Callan Mulvey plays noble opponent John Comyn. James Cosmo plays King Robert’s father. Billy Howle assumes the role of the English King’s son Prince Edward.
The film offers a combination of history with characters and actions on behalf of Robert to appeal to audiences. When presented at the Toronto International Film Festival, the film did include 20 more minutes. Much of which took place at the beginning of the movie. The complexity of the story seems too condensed at times to fit the events into two hours. The minimization of the film also does not leave much room for extensive character development.
William Wallace and King Robert remain heroes in their country today. Some may prefer Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart” tale over “The Outlaw King.” However, there is an audience that appreciates Mackenzie’s attempt at displaying the raw reality of living during medieval times.