Good news, fans of men in kilts and Chris Pine: Netflix’s new movie, Outlaw King, is full of both of those things. Outlaw King, out November 9, depicts a crucial moment in the history of Scotland and England’s long and harried relationship. Thanks to the efforts of one rogue — dare we say, outlaw — king named Robert the Bruce (played by an occasionally full-frontal Chris Pine), Scotland managed to regain independence from the bigger, badder England in the year 1307, and retained that independence for the next 400 years.
Hold up, you say. Haven’t you seen this movie before? Somewhere, from the thorny recesses of your pop culture memory, emerges another massive battle between underdog Scotsmen and a well-prepared British army. You remember blue paint, long hair, and the faint sound of bagpipes. You may wonder: Isn’t Outlaw King just a remake of the 1995 movie Braveheart?
Not quite, although Outlaw King and Braveheart do focus on the same sliver of history: Scotland's fight for liberation from Edward I of England's tyrannical rule, also known as the Wars for Scottish Independence. However, the movies raise different historical figures to hero status. The rebel William Wallace (Mel Gibson) is the hero of Braveheart. Robert the Bruce only factors into the ending of Braveheart, but he's the focal point of Outlaw King — and considered the father of Scottish independence.
Robert the Bruce finishes what William Wallace started, because Wallace certainly couldn't. Near the beginning of Outlaw King, news arrives that Wallace had been hanged, drawn, and quartered in London after being tried for treason, causing the devastated public to riot. How come? Well, we need to take a step back for a bit of William Wallace 101: In 1296, Wallace, the son of a landowner, refused to swear allegiance to England's King Edward I (Stephen Dillane in Outlaw King), who just declared himself king of Scotland after deposing John Balliol. Along with Andrew Moray, Wallace launched a successful resistance campaign against England — a feat, considering the might of England's army. Wallace became the Guardian of Scotland after winning the Battle of Stirling Bridge in September 1297. But Wallace's winning streak didn't last. In 1298, Edward I's armies defeated Wallace's in the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, sending Wallace into hiding. Wallace remained in hiding until 1305, when John de Menteith, a Scottish knight loyal to Edward, betrayed him. Wallace doesn't appear in outlaw king.
Where does Robert the Bruce come into this story? In 1297, Bruce and his father had pledged loyalty to Edward I, since they had disagreed with John Balliol's claim to the throne. Soon after, though, Bruce changed his mind and joined the rebels. “No man holds his flesh and blood in hatred, and I am no exception. I must join my own people and the nation in whom I was born," he said. When the Scottish were defeated in 1298 at the Battle of Falkirk, Bruce pledged loyalty to Edward I again so he could keep his land. Bruce was appointed Guardian of Scotland along with his enemy, John Comyn (Callan Mulvey), the nephew of John Balliol.
The real action of Outlaw King kicks off in 1306, when Bruce's stint as King of Scots begins. His early days as king were mired with scandal — which, considering he only become king after he murdered John Comyn in a church, isn't much of a surprise. Naturally, Bruce faced significant backlash for his decision to make himself king: Edward I declared him an outlaw, the Pope excommunicated him, and he essentially started a civil war with the Comyns. Obviously, his personal relationships took a toll from this drastic move, too. Bruce was forced to flee Scotland and spent the winter on islands off the coast. His wife, Elizabeth de Burgh (Florence Pugh in the movie), and his daughters were captured by the British; his three brothers were murdered. Still, he continued to fight the power.
With this wealth of history as backdrop, Outlaw King proceeds like a classically bloody war movie. The film culminates in the military victory at the 1307 Battle of Loudoun Hill, but the battle continued in real life. After achieving victory at the famous Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, which is depicted at the end of Braveheart, Bruce's kingship was consolidated and his power heightened. He was also reunited with his and wife and daughters. It would be another 14 years before Scottish independence would be officially recognized with the Treaty of Edinburgh, signed just a year before Bruce's death.