The King movie review: Timothée Chalamet is remarkable in a well-meaning but insipid adaptation of Shakespeare tale
The writers of The King manage to achieve a humanism that many medieval storylines tend to lack in an attempt to show the macho bravado of the times.
castTimothee Chalamet, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Dean-charles Chapman, Robert Pattinson,
William Shakespeare's Henriad plays have attracted many-a-filmmaker in the past — Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight and Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho to name a few — but what writers Joel Edgerton (who also plays Falstaff in the film) and David Michôd manage to achieve is a humanism that many medieval storylines tend to lack in an attempt to show the macho bravado of the times.
Michôd's The King takes a generous while to establish the character of Timothée Chalamet, an unwilling, free-spirited Hal, who despises his emperor father King Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn).
In a twist of events, Hal finds himself ascending the English throne after his father, and take on the French armies with aplomb (or at least that was what was expected). But what happens after Henry V's (a name which Hal takes up) ascension is vague, and unfortunately caricature-ish, all thanks to a much-annoying, contrived performance by Robert Pattinson, who struggles to play a French dauphin.
That the English and French forces were to collide historically at the Battle of Agincourt is a known fact. To the credit of editor Peter Sciberras, the ordeal looks menacing. Henry's claustrophobia finds a channel through the muck as he scrapes himself through a mass of bodies. In another brilliant scene, Chalamet exchanges a glance with an impatient younger brother, Thomas (Dean-Charles Chapman of Game of Thrones-fame), moments before the latter is sent to battle with Percy Hotspur (Tom Glynn-Carney).
Even for the uninitiated, that look holds a flurry of emotions that Hal exchanges, probably in a bid to protect Thomas. But Chalamet does not leave it there. He delves deeper to emote rage, jealousy, and even a hint of one-upmanship. Complexities have always been the actor's forte, but with Henry V, the actor in Chalamet rears its beautiful head (with the period-appropriate bowl haircut) to make audiences a part of the crucial yet troubling journey to unwanted fame.
Pattinson and Edgerton provide comic relief in the narrative. Digressing from the Bard's works, Chalamet's Henry V not only embraces Falstaff's counsel, but also appoints him as his trusted advisor on the battlefield. Much of that shift may steer towards the fact that Edgerton controls massive screen presence, and also shares commendable chemistry with Chalamet.
Cinematographer Adam Arkapaw is amazing with his camera-work. The lens hardly shifts focus from Hal's frail structure in the first half of the film, to signify the unlikeliness of his succession on the throne. Chalamet, in several scenes, is shown shirtless, with wavy hair, silently minding his own business in the inns of Eastcheap, London. But as the scenes progress, Henry V is shown wearing hefty armours and bold war accessories, transforming Chalamet's physique into that of a formidable warrior. Dark colour palettes succeed in accentuating both the disturbed state of the new emperor as well as factor in the gloom of the period.
While Michôd retains a semblance of relatability with easy-going dialogues, his decision to stray from the source material robs the characters of the meat, which they could otherwise have sunk their teeth into. Having said that, Chalamet delivers to his potential, and works his way through the script with maturity and nuance, but that is never a surprise from a delightful artiste of his calibre.
The King is currently streaming on Netflix.
The film’s first half is funny and throws up some interesting turns, the effort to hide which is proving to be a strain while writing this review. The humour is not of the laugh-a-minute variety, and owes more to these situational twists than to wisecracks.
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