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Is There A Sequel To Braveheart?

Wait, you're wondering, how could Braveheart have a sequel? 

If you haven't seen the film recently, then selective memory may have convinced you that a follow-up might be impossible. William Wallace (Mel Gibson) is pretty conclusively executed in Braveheart, as he was in the true story the movie is based on. The hero is drawn and quartered, as the terminology goes, which ends in a pretty definitive decapitation.

Yes, William Wallace dies in Braveheart, but the film doesn't end with his execution. Indelible as the moment of Wallace's death may be, his cry of "Freedom!" was not the last thing echoing through audience's ears as they filed out of theaters back in 1995. 

Instead, Braveheart continues in order to show how the struggle for Scottish independence didn't die with Wallace. Years after Wallace's death, his sometime-ally, sometime-foe Robert the Bruce (Angus Macfadyen) leads his troops before an English army that still believes Scotland to be firmly under English control, and invokes the name of Wallace before launching a surprise attack on the English. In 2019, nearly 25 years after Braveheart's release, Macfadyen returned to that role for a film once again named after its historical Scottish hero, Robert the Bruce.

What is Robert the Bruce about?

In many ways, Robert the Bruce inverts the premise of its predecessor. Rather than telling the story of a man galvanizing his people to find the courage and determination to stand up against the English occupation, Robert the Bruce shows how a people can inspire their leader to be the sort of man who deserves to be a king.

The Robert of this film has little of Wallace's charisma or clarity of purpose. Historically speaking, the events of Robert the Bruce are set between Wallace's execution and the Battle of Bannockburn depicted in its closing sequence. As such, Robert is far from sure he's made the right decision to continue Wallace's fight. Though the film begins with him winning out over the treachery of an English-allied Scottish noble, Robert soon scatters his army after defeats in battle, telling them to lie and say they stood with England against the rebels in order to avoid punishment. The English put a price on Robert's head, and he is wounded by men seeking to collect it.

He is found and nursed back to health by a widowed peasant woman, and his time spent in her cottage with her and the children — and their devotion to protecting him — inspires him to be a better sort of ruler for his people, and continue their fight for independence.

Who stars in Robert the Bruce?

Robert the Bruce in Braveheart was Macfadyen's first-ever film role, and the character has apparently stuck with him over the years. He co-wrote the script for Robert the Bruce with the writer Eric Belgau and produced the film as well. 

Many of Macfadyen's biggest roles from between his two stints playing Robert were also historical characters, brought to screens big and small. He played Blackbeard in the TV miniseries Blackbeard, Allan Pinkerton in the Canadian series The Pinkertons, Orson Welles in the 1999 film Cradle Will Rock, the ill-suited explorer-biologist James Murray in 2016's The Lost City of Z, and Aleister Crowley in the CBS All Access series Strange Angel

Jared Harris appears alongside Macfadyen as John Comyn, the nobleman who betrays him early in the film. Harris is perhaps best known for his roles as Lane Pryce on Mad Men and Valery Legasov on Chernobyl. Morag is played by the New Zealand actress Anna Hutchison, who got her start on the New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street. Hutchison played the Yellow Ranger in Power Rangers Jungle Fury and the short-lived Jules in 2012's The Cabin in the Woods.

Isn't Chris Pine in this movie?

Notably absent, sort of, from the cast of Robert the Bruce is Chris Pine. 

Pine played Robert the Bruce in the 2018 Netflix historical drama Outlaw King. That film covers some of the same ground as Robert the Bruce: The fight with John Comyn in the church is present in each version of the story, though the circumstances differ, and both films feature Bruce in the wilderness, wondering whether to continue the struggle. But Outlaw King has a scope and scale that's a little broader, showing more of Robert's struggle against the English, and with bigger battle sequences. 

Robert the Bruce, by contrast, is meant as more of a character piece, focusing on Robert's motivations and his capabilities as a leader, with combat that's more limited to small skirmishes between Robert and those helping him against his pursuers. They're a far cry from Braveheart's epic charges, but that's not the only reason Robert the Bruce might have slipped past most people's radars. While the film was released in the United Kingdom in 2019, its limited U.S. release, set for April of 2020, was scuttled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If there's one thing we can learn from the story of Robert the Bruce, whoever's telling it, it's that it's never too late to try again. Robert the Bruce is currently available for rent or purchase on YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Prime Video, and more.