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#TIFF18 Review: Outlaw King

September 7, 2018

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

TIFF decided to embrace streaming services by choosing the Netflix-produced Outlaw King to officially open the festival last night, and even though I still have some reservations about the predominantly non-theatrical distribution model used by the company – which notably got them blacklisted from Cannes this year – for the most part the choice paid off. The film actually looked so good on the new giant screen at Roy Thomson Hall, that it’s a damn shame more people won’t be able to see it in theatres.

Directed by David Mackenzie, following up his Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water, Outlaw King dramatizes the story of Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) and his bloody battle to wrestle power away from King Edward I (Stephen Dillane) in the 14th Century, to reclaim Scotland as a sovereign nation. The film mostly focuses on him waging war against the much larger English army through a series of fearless surprise attacks, aided by James Douglas (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) among others.

Despite the fact that Outlaw King was primarily made to be watched on small screens, it often plays with an appropriately cinematic feel that is established early on with an arresting tracking shot, and the film generally delivers as an entertaining and brutally violent historical epic. It has a grandeur and scope to it that does recall Braveheart and other movies of that ilk, with acclaimed cinematographer Barry Ackroyd even going to great lengths to light many of the scenes using candles and mostly natural light to give it a more authentic period feel.

The film does feel a bit long in places, but it’s rousing when it matters most, including several thrillingly executed battle sequences that end things on an exciting note. Chris Pine is a good fit in the leading role, backed up by a strong supporting cast that also includes Florence Pugh as Robert’s wife, Elizabeth de Burgh. Now I just wish that Netflix would actually release their movies in theatres first before putting them on the streaming service.

Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) in Outlaw King

Public Screenings:

Thursday, September 6th – 6:30 PM at Princess of Wales

Thursday, September 6th – 8:00 PM at Roy Thomson Hall

Friday, September 7th – 2:30 PM at Princess of Wales

Saturday, September 15th – 9:00 PM at Elgin Theatre

The 2018 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6th to 16th.

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