The King is about the ascendancy of King Henry V of England. Henry wishes to bring an end to his father's constant war and to unite his entire kingdom, but acts of war from France sidetrack his plans and send him on a quest to claim his honor by invading France and forcing a surrender of their lands. It stars Timothee Chalamet, Sean Harris, Joel Edgerton, Robert Pattinson and Ben Mendelsohn. It is co-written and directed by David Michod.
The diplomat in me has an answer when asked what I thought of a certain film I'm disinterested in and that answer is, "It's not for me." There's never not a follow up to that statement and eventually I end up offending a delicate sensibility by offering my unfiltered opinion, but I keep plugging on and I keep offering it as a first response, so here, I contend, The King is not for me.
Though, it is a well made film with an intriguing story. I was in a waking sleep through most of Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry V, so most of the plot was something I hadn't remembered from that or seen a dozen times before. As historical adaptations go it felt modern enough that despite the elevated language, I followed every move with clarity. Where The King lost me were in several pieces of minutiae within the story.
The first thing to take me out of the fantasy was that everyone was hoarsely whispering most of their lines. A half dozen monotonous growls in a scene and I have to play catch up with what each character's viewpoints were. I appreciated the more impassioned parts because I actually sat up and paid attention. It was hard as well to want to pay attention as the lighting was such that most of the faces and figures were cast in shadow. I remember one scene where Chalamet as Henry delivers a short speech to his advisors, completely shrouded in darkness. Though, the battles were in sunlight, I still have the thought and the concern that none of these guys knows who they're actually fighting because if everybody's in silver armor and helmets, how do you even tell your people apart? Especially as multiple combatants are hit over the head multiple times.
That is one thing I really enjoyed. There's a clumsiness to the battle and to movement in general. There were several times when characters missed a step or made a movement that added reality to the situation. The battles looked like they were choreographed in the moment, which was perfect for the chaos they become in the mud and the rain. Even The Dauphin's showdown with Henry is lovely in this reality as The Dauphin slips and slides on the mud. The one on one fight between Henry and Hotspur is much the same.
Though, unfortunately, sameness infects the actors as they often embody archetypes despite being based upon real people. The one stand out and I'm not sure if the performance is good or bad necessarily, but bonkers and joyful, is Robert Pattinson as The Dauphin. He's so smarmy, cruel, funny and all together awkward. I perked up in his scenes, just to see what he would do and how his accent would change.
If you like swords and chivalry pictures with attempts at Game of Thrones-like intrigue, then you may enjoy The King, but if you're a little bored with men brooding, fighting, and brooding some more, this may be one you want to just pass on by on the old Netflix feed.