The King: A Review

The King is a family drama disguised as a war movie. Starring Timothée Chalamet as King Henry V, the film follows his unwilling ascension to the throne. Directed by David Michôd, the film compensates for its slow narrative with performances and production. 

It’s easy to draw comparisons to HBO’s former television juggernaut Game of Thrones, for reasons beyond the period setting. The King opens by introducing us to a character that could easily be the lead, Hotspur (Tom Glynn-Carney). However, it’s revealed that the actual hero of this story is Hal (Timothée Chalamet), who is hungover in a village, and not yet king. Hal’s younger brother Thomas (Dean-Charles Chapman) is set to take the throne, but must first lead a battle against Hotspur. 

Timothée Chalamet plays the naive but well-meaning Hal. He wants to do what’s right, but doesn’t trust himself to know what that is. Hal is emotional and easy to persuade. After one too many betrayals by his staff, he recruits his loyal friend Falstaff (Joel Edgerton) to serve as an advisor. But Falstaff is an alcoholic and a pacifist who clashes with the other advisors. 

Chapman and Glynn-Carney give strong performances for their short screen-time, and their presence is missed for the rest of the movie. Chapman specifically plays a perfect whiny little brother. Chalamet is outshined by nearly every actor in the film. This is not a dig at the charismatic Chalamet, who has shown time and time again to be a compelling actor, but praise for the talented cast. Well-known and capable actors such as Sean Harris, Ben Mendelsohn, and Joel Edgerton give engaging performances with help from the well-written script.

Joel Edgerton and director David Michôd share writing credits on The King, which is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henriad. A hazard that comes with adapting Shakespeare is that most everyone has seen it before and will compare it to their favorite version. Some popular adaptations include My Own Private Idaho (1991) and Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V (1989).

Something that sets The King apart from other adaptations is the moving score. Composer Nicholas Britell is most known for working with Barry Jenkins on his Academy Award-winning films Moonlight (2016) and If Beale Street Could Talk (2018). His work with Michôd is mournful and hopeless, like the situation Hal finds himself in. 

The cinematography is often bleak, reflecting the circumstances and time period, but there are moments where cinematographer Adam Arkapaw creates beautiful shots with cool colors. 

The humor in The King saves the film in scenes that would otherwise drag on. Moments of genuine comedy pepper the film in unexpected places. Joel Edgerton’s Falstaff serves as comedic relief that doesn’t become overwhelming. Robert Pattinson’s brief appearance as The Dauphin is another highlight.

However, The King is heavy handed in its message. King Charles VI of France (Thibault de Montalembert) gives a speech at the end of the film that summarizes an overarching theme throughout the work. In one conversation with Hal, Princess Catherine (Lily-Rose Depp), shows him that all of his fears about becoming King came true, despite his best efforts. Hal has sacrificed everything for the good of his country, but has he actually learned anything?

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