Director: Howard McCain
Screenplay: Howard McCain, Dirk Blackman
Producers: Chris Roberts, Barrie M. Osborne
Starring: James Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, Ron Perlman, John Hurt, John Beale, Katie Bergin
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 115 min.
Living in Vancouver has it’s advantages (beautiful surroundings, great people, coffee shops on ever corner) but when it comes to movies, especially the limited release fare, we don’t do quite as well as I’d like. The awards favourites usually make an appearance as do Canadian films but if you blink, you can miss things like Nightwatching (our review) or Fanboys (our review) while others don’t even make an appearance (Colleen still seethes at the lack of Black Sheep). I’m was bitter that we were not given the opportunity to see Outlander and now that I’ve seen it on DVD, I really wish I’d had the chance to see it on the big screen.
We’ve talked (a lot) about how great Howard McCain’s film looked and I’m happy to report that it doesn’t disappoint. Outlander stars James Caviezel (yes, Jesus) as Kainan, the sole human-looking survivor of an alien ship which crashes on earth. Kainan quickly sets up a beacon for rescue and goes out hunting for an evil creature which they refer to as a dragon, that he was transporting and which is now running lose on earth. While on the hunt he’s captured by a group of Vikings, beaten a little and then taken to camp where, after a few trials, he ends up as their leader. Tell me you didn’t see that one coming from the trailer?
Outlander works for many of the same reasons that Drag Me to Hell (our review) does. There’s very little new here beyond the basic Vikings vs. Aliens premise. Once the story is set up, the film develops as any other action adventure and the Vikings may as well be hunting a real dragon. It is to McCain’s credit that he manages to set up the ludicrous story, unravel it and still manage to keep the audience on board. There are moments of sci-fi goodness (alien weapon, clothing, the monster itself) seamlessly interwoven with what we’ve come to expect from Viking films (excellent period design, great swordfights) to the point where you’re not shaking your head at how awful it is but rather shaking your fist at the greatness. And there’s comedy! Bits of it throughout that only add to the enjoyment. The result may be a rehash but it’s one that feels fresh and expertly managed and the resulting film is solidly entertaining.
Though it occasionally feels like a b-movie (the cave sequence near the end is a little cheesy) the production and acting certainly doesn’t feel it. James Caviezel plays the role seriously and it works superbly as does Ron Perlman as Gunnar (though his role is quite small he’s excellent as the leader of the opposing clan), Sophia Myles is great in period garb and once again she shines as a woman who is much more than a damsel (she needs to be in more movies) but it was relative newcomer Jack Huston who caught my attention. I expect we’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of him.
McCain’s film sold itself as an action adventure and it doesn’t disappoint. There’s sword play, monsters, a little (understated) romance, gorgeous cinematography and great all around production; why the Weinstein Company didn’t release it wider is a bit mind boggling (I guess they couldn’t figure out how to sell Vikings vs. Aliens – like that premise doesn’t sell itself). Thankfully, Outlander is now available on DVD, a release which also includes some excellent outtakes and a commentary with writer/director Howard McCain, writer Dirk Blackman and the film’s producers which I really enjoyed listening to.
This is one worth checking out.
Click “play” to see the trailer:
Flixster Profile for Outlander