Maybe you’ve seen Braveheart. But while Mel Gibson’s 1995 Oscar winner tells some of the story of the part of Scottish history that Outlaw King also covers, it won’t prepare you for the graphic scenes and brutality on show in the 2018 Netflix film.
David MacKenzie’s take on Robert the Bruce’s story picks up after Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace’s attempts to secure Scotland’s independence from the English results in his beheading. And in fact, Wallace’s head can be seen on a pike in Outlaw King. Incorporating real-life battles and incidents, MacKenzie’s film, which stars Chris Pine in the lead role, stands out for its efforts to show these bloody confrontations in graphic detail. Which is why we asked Chris Pine, director David MacKenzie, and the rest of the cast for their most memorable kill sequences in the film.
Pine ignored co-star Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s suggestion of the moment Robert the Bruce swings an axe atop a horse to instead plump for the film’s climactic final battle sequence.
“I would say there’s a ten-minute fight sequence at the end. The film is many things but I think it’s also a meditation on violence, and the extremity of violence, and the brutality of violence. And how long and miserable and muddy and bloody [war is]… and arms are amputated and your friends are dying next to you. And it’s just horrific chaos, and it’s slippery, the clothing is heavy, the battleaxes are heavy, people are hitting you. It gave a thousandth of the feeling of what perhaps it must have been like when these poor souls had to go fight. You had to look the man in the eye while you did it. Nothing was fun about it.”
For Taylor-Johnson, who plays James Douglas in the film and frequently — and entertainingly — switches into berserker mode, his favourite kill takes place in a church.
“My character has quite a sequence when he goes to sack his own castle, which is a very big moment in history,” says Taylor-Johnson, referring to the occasion when Douglas stormed his family’s castle — which had been taken over by the English — on Palm Sunday in 1307. “There’s a whole moment where he slays a lot of guys in a church, and that was a historical event, and it’s a complete bloodbath, and it’s very brutal. They had this rigged-up dummy and I had to basically decapitate him, and it was the most vulgar thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
A Plethora of Brutal Moments
Tony Curran, who plays Angus Og Macdonald, Lord of Islay in the movie, picked another extremely bloody sequence.
“There was this lovely moment where we enter a castle — and it was a bit of a visual effect,” he says. “I’ve got this big spear and I stick it right through this guy’s armour and it comes out his back. And, of course, at the time, it didn’t happen because it was going to be a visual effect — I just thought I was stabbing him [with a sword]. And then when I saw it on camera I was like, ‘Oh, that’s good, isn’t it?’ I was quite impressed.”
He points out that his co-star, Billy Howle, who plays the antagonist, Edward, Prince of Wales, in the film has a “plethora of brutality of death.”
“But it’s usually by my orders,” qualifies Howle. “I’m kind of ordering for other people to be killed. Which is interesting — that separation in some way makes it slightly more sinister. But my favourite moment… I’d probably say the scene in the church with John Comyn (played by Callan Mulvey) and Robert. I won’t say what happens, but that’s pretty gruesome. When I saw that for the first time I was like, ‘OK, I see where this is going.”
Director David MacKenzie presumably loves most if not every scene — violent or otherwise — in his film, but his most memorable kill, like Chris Pine, involves a sequence with multiple kills. Cheating? Perhaps.
“There’s a scene, without wishing to give the story away, where Robert is on the side of a loch and half his guys are on the other side and they suddenly get ambushed,” says MacKenzie. “It comes out of the blue, and it’s a very quick ambush, and the Scots are kind of up to their waists in water trying to get out to a boat and they get attacked. That’s a scene where there’s some… you know, the mixture of water and swords and spears and things like that has got a very strong visual intensity.”
Outlaw King premieres on Netflix on November 9.