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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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June 16, 2024

“Outlaw King:” boring depiction of Scottish wars

Outlaw King
Photo by Creative Commons
Outlaw King

David Mackenzie’s most recent film, “Outlaw King,” stars Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce. The film picks up roughly from where the equally drab “Braveheart” leaves off and lifelessly continues the epic story of Scotland’s first war for independence. Although the film contains one of the best cinematic shots of the year so far, the rest of movie was lackluster at best.
The plot follows Robert the Bruce in his quest to free Scotland from the ruthless grip of England during the early 1300s. The film takes place around the time of the famed William Wallace’s death and could be considered a sequel to Mel Gibson’s 1995 film. Neither film truly captures the bravery of the men involved in Scotland’s fight for freedom, but rather directly focuses on the violence of the war. The battle scenes in each are properly choreographed and certainly intriguing, but the brutality of scenes alone cannot make up for the failures that are littered through the rest of the film.
When the film debuted a few months ago at the Toronto International Film Festival, Mackenzie realized it needed serious work before the Netflix release. The film suffers from lack of direction and even Mackenzie himself could see this. He cut nearly 20 minutes of the film in a desperate attempt to save it, but his last-ditch efforts could not recover the doomed film. It’s frustrating to know the director didn’t even enjoy the film in its first final version, and this lack of enjoyment directly correlates to the audience’s lack of enjoyment as well.
Mackenzie made a name for himself in the American film scene with his 2016 film “Hell or High Water,”which also starred Pine. The Scottish director built up a reputation as a filmmaker in Glasgow before successfully transitioning to the Hollywood scene. However, this latest work negates his previous success. The film lacks a central vision and jumps back and forth between indistinguishable, two-dimensional characters.
The film does have one redeeming factor, and that is the brilliant use of the camera work in the opening scene. The opening shot is a gorgeous 10-minute-long shot that brings the audience right into the exposition. The camera gracefully moves back and forth between the English army tents and a duel that takes place right outside. This camera technique is difficult to choreograph and must involve multiple masters of the art form in order to be successful. So even though the storytelling ability of Mackenzie throughout the film is shallow and dull, his work alongside cinematographer Barry Ackroyd in this scene of the film proves his potential as a director.
Chris Pine’s perfomance as Robert the Bruce is adequate given the mess of a film the final product is. Mackenzie didn’t provide Robert with much character development, despite his role as the titular character of the film. Most of the other characters and performances are pretty unmemorable as few of the characters are given any sort of motivations or development past information on the characters that can be easily accessed online.
Ultimately, “Outlaw King” follows the trend of uninspired Scottish independence films that “Braveheart” started nearly 20 years ago. Mackenzie has proven himself as a filmmaker with his previous work in Scotland and Hollywood, so hopefully this is nothing more than a fluke in his filmmaking career.
Rating: 2.5/5
Cole Fowler is an English sophomore and Life & Arts reporter for The Battalion.

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