…And a strange pestilence spread over the land and the people were troubled. Their laments reached the ears of the old king who was then sorely beset. The noble king grew weary and thought “Is there not within the bounds of this kingdom, a champion, a mighty Knight who would rid the land of its scourge? And if not, May the Gods perchance send us one such?”...
It has been years since Hollywood served up a good, hearty, sword and fantasy epic. The eighties were full of them what with the likes of Conan The Barbarian and other low budget imitators. Director Howard McCain takes a plot that is as old as the hills, incorporates a new twist, and gives us a film which is surprisingly enjoyable.
A similar film called The Thirteenth Warrior starring Antonio Banderas appeared in the 1990’s directed by John McTiernan (who also gave us Predator and Die Hard). Outlander’s plot includes elements from both Predator and The Thirteenth Warrior but the treatment is significantly different. Outlander stresses more on the human relationships that exist between the characters; the themes of Belonging and Acceptance, family, community, honour, friendship, loyalty and chivalry are all nicely brought out. This is not to say that the film eschews action; but the director seems to have struck a neat balance between the fights and the human relationships with all the dexterity of a high wire artiste.
John Hurt is suitably beleaguered and noble as the old King Rothgar and Sophia Myles is his fair daughter, Freya. James Caviezel is lean, stubble jawed, and has black short hair; the clear Outlander amongst the long haired, blond Norsemen. Caviezel’s portrayal of a character lacerated by guilt and suffering is expressed through his blue eyes and minimal speech. His acting is surprisingly good given the fact that he is the Hero in an action adventure film! (maybe all the practice that he had from The Passion of the Christ has stood him in good stead!) Ron Perlman appears in a small cameo as a twin axe wielding warrior and looks mean enough.
And how could one forget the Creature? The special effects are great, and the Beast is as good as any as we have seen on the screen, all hell fire, fangs, and whip lashing tail. The screen play elicits chills, spills, and emotional highs from what is otherwise a very predictable plot. The climax too is gradually built up, with a sudden twist at the end, and when we think that yes it is all over, it is not yet time to leave. The film has a message too, of a very topical and contemporary kind.
Outlander is a film that utilizes all the elements of its genre: a lovely heroine, a fierce and most potent Beast, a lonely Hero, and a band of unlikely comrades. It is quite enjoyable because the director has taken care to add a certain minimal depth to the main characters and to blend in themes of Hubris, Loss and longing as well as Fate and Free Will. Sit back and enjoy.
This review is by guest reviewer Anand S. Anand lives in Pune and is a Miscellaneous Culture Vulture. He is deeply interested in music, food, books, films, and intelligent women. He views himself as a Falstaffian figure, who does his best to indulge his appetites.
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