Warning: Spoiler alert!
Netflix’s “The King,” directed by David Michôd, portrays the origin story of King Henry V played by renowned Timothée Chalamet. Right off the bat, this is not a lighthearted movie and is not a film you simply watch for fun.
Chalamet has demonstrated his acting range the past few years on the big screen with films like “Lady Bird,” “Call Me by Your Name,” “Beautiful Boy” and will be in the anticipated adaptation of Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” in December. However, “The King” depicts Chalamet in a role we haven’t seen before.
The film begins with the austere medieval 15th century England before the Renaissance. We see Henry, called Hal by his friends, living in a drunk stupor and not paying any mind to his title as prince. He rejects all connections he has to the crown and only acknowledges his father when he learns he’s dying.
Henry V is depicted as the opposite of his father, seeking peace rather than conflict with England’s primary foe, France. To his face, his father tells him he will never be king and he will instead be succeeded by his younger brother, Thomas. Thomas ultimately dies in battle leaving Henry as the sole heir.
This is where we begin to see the depth of Chalamet’s acting. His anger and spite towards his father can be felt through the screen, but we can still see the empathy he has toward his younger brother. His last interaction with his father on his deathbed is hostile, yet, he does not care. In fact, Chalamet’s depiction of Henry can be terrifying as we watch him easily behead two of his entourage after losing their trust, stabbing his adviser William in the back of the head without a second thought and killing multiple men during battle.
Chalamet and co. truly do an amazing job of portraying an authentic harshness of the 1400’s, but honestly, this film did not need to be 2 hours and 20 minutes long. It could’ve done well as a mini-series and held on to those who have shorter attention spans.
The cinematography? Crisp. The makeup and costume? Amazing. However, we do not see action hit the screen until over an hour into the film and because of this, the film is dialogue heavy.
One aspect I did not get out of the film was a visualization of Henry V’s transition from a 26-year-old frolicking drunk to a king. It felt as if there was no development, no process, no true shock to becoming a king and it all fell into place very quickly. To go from drinking in bars to planning strategic attacks does not happen in a few weeks.
Where’s the character development? We need more context on Henry’s past and why his relationship with his father was so strained. History does show that Henry fought in battles prior, but this isn’t depicted in the movie. Netflix even released a short video providing more context about Henry V, but where was this in the film?
Along with this, casting Robert Pattinson as the dauphin may have been a miss. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Pattinson. Regarding his acting, Pattinson does well at embodying a character that represents the corrupt French leadership in the 15th century. However, his faux French accent stands out.
Next to Chalamet’s clean French dialect, we’d expect a conversation or two with the dauphin in French. I do wish there had been more consideration put into this aspect, we see it briefly with Lily-Rose Depp as the French princess, Catherine, but that’s about it.
There is a scene where the dauphin is meant to combat King Henry V. As a viewer, I was ready for an intense battle after so much built up anger between two characters. Instead, he flails in the mud, it’s indeed funny and provides comedic relief, however the scenes didn’t fit the rest of the film and instead made me cringe.
Overall, I think we needed a film like “The King.” Chalamet gathers the views of a younger audience to switch their attention toward a historical drama. While the film may be serious in tone, it provides context that’s interesting and educational for the viewer, and you walk away with a little more knowledge of history.
Hopefully we see more films like this one in the future.
My rating: 3.5/5
Featured Image: Courtesy Netflix