I had an opportunity to watch the movie Outcast this week. It's a pretty straight forward period piece starring Hayden Christensen and Nicolas Cage. It tells the story of a Crusader named Jacob who has lost his way and ends up in the east where the heir to the Imperial throne is being hunted by his evil brother. Jacob becomes the only chance the young prince has of taking the throne and bringing peace to the region.
Christensen plays Jacob, a well trained warrior and a true-believer until he watched a woman kill her children then herself rather than become captives of the crusaders. This shakes Jacob to the core and sends him spiraling into an opium addiction. His former mentor, Gallain, was already tired of battle and headed to the East where Jacob follows. A drugged out Jacob comes to the aide of the future emperor and his sister when the Black Guard try to take them. Their older brother, a war-monger, kills the sitting emperor but is out of luck when his younger brother is missing with the seal that goes with the throne.
The strengths of the film are the fight scenes, which are well choreographed, and the acting of Christensen and Yifei Liu who plays Lian the sister. Her determination to protect her brother and her fascination with Jacob play well with Christensen's path of redemption. The weaknesses are that the story doesn't feel like anything new and Cage's inability to play anything but crazy anymore. There is very little difference to any of the roles Cage seems to take on for the last few years.
Now I said the story didn't feel like it was new in anyway… but that doesn't make it bad. The pacing and dialogue are well done and I grew to like the characters as the story progressed. James Dormer's script told an interesting story. The film was also well directed by Nick Powell. But it doesn't quite have the big-screen feel. It's far better than a SyFy channel film but not quite theater quality.
The big surprise for my was Christensen. His character was compelling enough and well acted. I hope that this inspires casting directors to ignore his turn as Anakin Skywalker and give him a chance at some good roles. I'd also like to see what Powell and Dormer could do with a more original premise.