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New To DVD - ROBERT THE BRUCE

robert the bruce review
The story of the Scottish hero.

Review by Blair MacBride

Directed by: Richard Gray

Starring: Angus Macfadyen, Anna Hutchison, Zach McGowan, Diarmaid Murtagh, Jared Harris, Patrick Fugit

robert the bruce dvd



Billed colloquially as "Braveheart II", Robert the Bruce made its debut at this year’s EIFF 2019. Directed by Richard Gray and starring/co-written by Angus Macfadyen - the same man who played "The Bruce" in Mel Gibson’s film all those years ago - this feature is less like the high-end Hollywood action story, and more centred around part of the story behind the famous Scottish King himself.


robert the bruce review

Set during the continued war for Scottish Independence in 1306, the year after William Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered, this story follows a defeated Robert the Bruce (Macfadyen). Having endured serious losses in both battles and followers, The Bruce attempts to see off domestic rivals such as John Comyn (Jared Harris) and his cohorts (featuring Zach McGowan as Brandubh); the likes of which would rather kowtow to their English overlords in return for land and "recognition" as a puppet "King" of Scotland. Along the way, Robert braves mutiny committed by his own men, and eventually enters the lives of a family living in a quiet little Croft. It is here where - with the help of followers Morag (Anna Hutchison), Carney (Brandon Lessard), Iver (Talitha Eliana Bateman) and Scot (Gabriel Bateman) - he struggles to regather his desire to fight again to once more become recognised as the true King of Scots.

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Macfadyen nails the beleaguered portrayal of his Bruce, successfully depicting a haggard man whose hope is all but lost. McGowan is a great antagonist, while Hutchison plays a sister-like character to Robert with sophistication and class. That aside, the majority of the cast sound like a group of Slovak born, Japanese tourists with their wayward attempts at a Scottish accent. It truly butchers any sense of dramatic tension and lulls the dialogue being spoken; the sharp jolts of cringe are a regular occurrence throughout the film.


robert the bruce review

Moreover, on the topic of dialogue, this movie’s script simply screams missed opportunity. In Scotland recently, the release of Robert the Bruce caused quite the stir as Cineworld refused to pick it up. The reality of the situation is, however, that, sadly, this movie doesn’t live up to its hype. The story is tediously lengthy, and while the aim of this particular feature was to "tell a story that strips bare the pomposity and tells the story of a man" and to "make a more intimate film and also a film that didn’t glorify war" (according to an interview with Macfadyen), Robert the Bruce couldn’t feel less personal if it tried. Its wishy-washy dialogue evidently endeavours to conjure up a similar cinematic grandeur as its award-winning unofficial predecessor did in 1995; a certain speech about "Freedom" comes to mind here.

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Regrettably though, even when moving away from a "Braveheart sequel" analogy, the film on its own just disappoints. As already mentioned, the story itself aims to act as a deeper character study of the famed Scottish King. Yet upon viewing it, the balance feels off as it pays too much attention to the plot threads of fending off domestic rivals and not enough time to developing the character of Macfadyen’s Bruce himself - a fault that paradoxically falls with Macfadyen and his co-writer Eric Belgau. For an hour and 20 minutes, the film fails to show signs of any liveliness at all. Indeed, although it must be said that Robert the Bruce is absolutely gorgeous to look at with its wide panning shots of glorious landscapes, and that it also features an engaging climactic action sequence near its end, both qualities are too little too late to save this movie.


robert the bruce review

Consequently, Robert the Bruce sadly falls flat in its efforts to entertainingly tell part of The Bruce’s story engrained in Scottish folklore. A film made with no doubt the best of intentions, it nevertheless dashes sincere hopes for an enjoyable flick on one of Scotland’s most celebrated sons, and instead underscores the premise of a feasible idea executed badly.

Robert the Bruce comes to UK DVD November 4th.




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