“We have a spectacle,” announces King Edward (Stephen Dillane) in the middle of both an England-Scotland peace brokering and a long, circling-camera take that opens Outlaw King. This exposition-heavy early scene, which includes in its unbroken shot Robert The Bruce (Chris Pine) sword-dueling with an opponent who quizzes him on Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace, is arguably the showiest in the movie—an unusual quality for a historical war epic. Outlaw King (or, as it’s styled by the opening credits, Outlaw/King) has a more ambitious scale than other work from director David Mackenzie, even his high-profile Oscar nominee Hell Or High Water, but it’s scrappier and quieter than Braveheart, the movie it semi-sequelizes. Braveheart mythologized the 13th-century efforts of William Wallace in the First War Of Scottish Independence, while Outlaw King takes place in the immediate aftermath, with Wallace briefly in hiding before he’s captured and killed off screen. In that elaborate opening sequence, King Edward is soliciting loyalty pledges from various nobles, including Robert, who wants to end the recent bloodshed. But it’s a brisk half-hour or so from a Scottish surrender to pledges of “Robert, I am with you,” as he becomes king of the Scots—“people, not land,” he clarifies—and leads them in another rebellion against their English would-be ruler. Robert The Bruce was a character in Mel Gibson’s Wallace picture, appearing as something of a compromised foil to the hero. Mackenzie, in turn, makes Robert the hero here, though his enemies—the King and his son, also Edward (Billy Howle)—aren’t… [Read full story]
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