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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Outlaw King takes place in the early 14th century when Scotland was battling England for independence. Immediately after the historical events depicted in Braveheart, the Scots united behind a new leader, determined to liberate their country from the oppression and tyranny of England's king. Violence is frequent and brutal. Multiple battles find hundreds of men in fierce battle using swords, spears, knives, fire, and hand-to-hand savagery. The scenes are bloody and gruesome, with mountains of bodies strewn across muddy, blood-soaked fields. Horses fall in vast numbers, some of them with bloody wounds. (Note: End credits announce that no animals were harmed during the making of the film.) A man is hanged, sliced, with his innards emerging. A rival is stabbed in close-up, the knife thrust into his body until he dies in his murderer's arms. One intimate scene shows a married couple engaged in sex and includes partial nudity: breasts and buttocks. There's a brief glimpse of male frontal nudity as the hero emerges from a pond. Infrequent profanity includes "bastards," "pr--k," "hell," and "arsehole," and one use of "f--k." Mature teens only.
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What's the story?
In the first years of the 14th century, a time of turmoil and savage territorial hostilities, a young Scottish aristocrat, Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine), emerged as a valiant and courageous leader in OUTLAW KING. William Wallace, the hero in Braveheart, who had boldly fought King Edward of England (Stephen Dillane), had been vanquished, leading to an uneasy truce with the British. But soon, the Scots found themselves once again oppressed and vilified. Rivalries within the ranks of Scottish leaders kept them at odds and ineffective until Robert, with only a few stalwart followers, asserted his leadership in a new fight for independence. Early efforts to gain support from their compatriots, though often violent and harsh, ultimately led to a ragtag army of Scottish allies. Still, they were outnumbered and ill-equipped to take on the powerful enemy led by the Prince of Wales (Billy Howle) and Aymer de Valence (Sam Spruell). A number of harrowing defeats only served to inspire the Scots. Cunning and passion became the force's most significant assets as they met the enemy at the thunderous Battle of Loudon Hill in 1307, a turning point in a war that seemed destined to fail.
Is it any good?
Director David Mackenzie's wonderfully staged battle scenes and stirring story of unexpected victory will appeal to those who don't mind gruesome violence along with their authentic historical drama. Cinematography, editing, and most of the performances are first-rate, as well. Chris Pine does a fine job of suppressing his movie star good looks with an often blood-soaked patina of courage and smarts, and even a bit of ruthlessness. The romance that evolves in an arranged political marriage is as sweet as it is sometimes fraught with peril.
Outlaw King is long, with lots of characters to remember, sometimes repetitive battles, and a few one-dimensional players whose depravity or lunacy seem arch or formulaic. As a "sequel" of sorts to Braveheart, the movie's creators must have known that the violence quotient had to be high, and they've accomplished that. Still, after an individual is hanged and quartered, do we have to stay fixed on the shot long enough to watch his innards descend? Not for kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Outlaw King. What emotions do you think the filmmakers were trying to elicit when they made the battle scenes so graphic and gory? Did your view of Robert the Bruce change after he killed John Comyn? Why or why not? Why is it important to be aware of the impact of violence on kids?
How did the filmmakers choose to portray Elizabeth (Florence Pugh), Robert's wife? In what ways did her behavior reflect a more modern female? How did Robert's treatment of her make him even more sympathetic?
Scotland's fight for independence took place over centuries. As recently as 2014, the Scots had a ballot referendum on becoming an independent country, which was defeated. Where would you go to learn more about the animosity between Scotland and the United Kingdom?
- On DVD or streaming: November 9, 2018
- Cast: Chris Pine, Stephen Dillane, Florence Pugh
- Director: David Mackenzie
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: brutal war violence, some sexuality, language, and brief nudity
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