Click here for updates on the evolving COVID-19 situation at Rice
Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Friday, September 25, 2020 — Houston, TX °

‘Outlaw King’: Clumsy but worthwhile

outlawking-courtesy-netflix
Courtesy of Netflix

By Michael VerMeulen     11/14/18 12:05am

Rating: 3.5/5

Although shows like “Game of Thrones” has seen a rise in popularity, medieval films have not followed suit. Production of such films is few and far between. Director David Mackenzie attempts to rectify this dearth of Middle Age epics with his new film “Outlaw King,” a flawed yet compelling piece of grand medieval entertainment.

The film follows the true story of Robert the Bruce, portrayed by Chris Pine, who reneges on his sworn fealty to England by starting a rebellion and taking the title of the King of Scots. Forced to work in stealth against a giant English force, Robert and his loyal band of outlaws attempt to reclaim Scotland’s independence once and for all.



The film’s biggest asset is its overall adhesion to history. Rather than using operatic grandiosity, Mackenzie instead attempts to replicate the raw reality of the film’s time period. This approach is manifest in the movie’s costume and production design, eschewing colorful visuals for a grittier, more practical look in keeping with the appearance of early-1300s Europe. Only when highlighting Scotland’s natural beauty does the film call attention to its visuals, a decision that highlights the characters’ admiration and respect for the land. This approach becomes most evident in the film’s brutal action set pieces. Unafraid to show blood and guts, the camera focuses on, rather than cuts away from, the horrifying images occuring to the characters. As a result, the audience experiences what the characters onscreen are experiencing.

Additionally, the performances are excellent across the board. Pine is compelling as the legendary Scot, bringing a welcome everyman quality to an inherently regal role. This quality is most evident in his scenes with the superbly expressive Florence Pugh, who plays Robert’s wife Elizabeth. The chemistry between the two is electric, making their relationship one of the surprising highlights of the film. As for Robert’s fellow rebels, Tony Curran is sterling as the endearing Angus MacDonald and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a beastly presence as the revenge-fueled James Douglas. As for the villains, Stephen Dillane brings welcome gravitas as the aging Edward I and Billy Howle is fittingly unhinged as his eager-to-please son.

However, the film falters in its pacing and character development. The movie progresses at a rapid clip, especially once the battles begin. While this prevents the film from becoming boring, it also keeps it from giving its supporting characters the depth needed for their scenes to carry proper dramatic weight. Deaths that should be difficult to watch are only so for their intense gore rather than their emotional impact. Moreover, the movie has a lackluster conclusion that clumsily attempts to tie together every narrative thread without the adequate screen time to earn such an ending.

Despite its subpar pacing and conclusion, “Outlaw King” is still a good telling of a true, celebrated Scottish story. Its dynamic performances and gore-filled battle sequences make it a great example of brutal historical filmmaking and a worthwhile watch. 

“Outlaw King” runs 122 minutes and is available to stream on Netflix.



More from The Rice Thresher

A&E 9/22/20 11:29pm
Rice students take the mic with independent podcasts

The beauty of podcasts comes from their convenience — plug in your headphones, press play and go about your day — you’ll find that more often than not, podcasts will fall seamlessly into your schedule. While plenty of Rice students have turned to podcasts to break up the monotony of their routine, a handful of owls have traded headphones for microphones and started shows of their own. If, like me, you’ve struggled to fill the empty stretches of silence of your days in quarantine, consider listening to these four podcasts created by your fellow Rice students.   

A&E 9/22/20 11:27pm
A First Look into the Moody’s Fall 2020 Exhibition: States of Mind: Art and American Democracy

What really is democracy? What does it mean to be a democracy and what does it entail? The Moody Center for the Arts’s new fall exhibition, “States of Mind: Art and American Democracy,” seeks to answer these questions, although perhaps not in the way you might imagine. Moody’s newest exhibit, organized by Associate Curator Ylinka Barotto, introduces new perspectives and angles from artists telling their own stories in their own ways, particularly focusing on national issues affecting Texas. Its goal is to drive new thoughts and deeper revelations in viewers. Art, after all, is not about giving direct answers, but coming to your own.  

A&E 9/22/20 11:22pm
Bakerites channel anxieties into art in new exhibit, “PANDEMIA”

Any other year, Baker College’s P-Quad would be bustling with people gathering to eat, study, and socialize. COVID-19 restrictions this semester have subdued some of that energy, but recently, students and faculty across Rice have been flocking there for an unexpected reason. For the next month, P-Quad will be home to PANDEMIA: an outdoor art exhibit featuring students’ perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic.  


Comments

Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.