Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Movies with Abe: Robert the Bruce

Robert the Bruce
Directed by Richard Gray
Released April 24, 2020

The film “Braveheart” took home the Oscar for Best Picture in 1995, along with a handful of other technical prizes, for its epic cinematic retelling of the story of William Wallace, who fought for Scottish independence in the thirteenth century. It’s certainly among the larger-scale films to be crowned best of the year in recent memory, and ranks as one of the less controversial movies directed by Mel Gibson. Twenty-five years later, that saga continues with a sequel that picks up the story after Wallace to focus on its new central character, the king of an embattled Scotland: Robert the Bruce.

Robert (Angus Macfadyen) and his followers are losing the war, finding their numbers thinned and their spirits crushed. Feeling no hope, Robert disbands his army and retreats. Evading capture by the many people eager to collect the reward offered by the King of England, Robert finds himself at the home of Morag (Anna Hutchinson), a peasant looking after three young children. As those seeking his head scour the countryside calling his name, Robert begins to understand the common people he should be serving as he in turn inspires them to reconsider their worldviews.

This is a much smaller and subtler film than “Braveheart,” though it does feature a good deal of gore that occurs on the battlefield and when those wielding weapons want to leave their mark. Its focus is instead on a man fighting for his principles who has the opportunity to step back from the big picture and learn to appreciate the true value of life and relationships. Its effectiveness is enhanced by the fact that, at the start of the film, Morag tells stories about the legendary Robert the Bruce that have become lore and which don’t entirely reflect the reality of who he is when he arrives looking for a place to hide.

Macfadyen is the only actor in the cast reprising his role from the original film, and he does so with a humanity that’s gradually evident as he transforms from worn-down warrior to simple family man. Hutchinson is likeable and endearing, and a cast that’s populated primarily by American actors, including Zach McGowan and Emma Kenney from “Shameless,” performs sufficiently. This film is a more down-to-earth tribute to the history of Scotland than its predecessor, one that presents a relatable intimate story within a visually compelling and moderately memorable cinematic showcase.


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