Review by Alexandra
(London Film Festival)
‘The King’ brings together inspiration from various Shakespeare plays in 2 hours and 13 minutes of historical drama, visceral battles, humour and awkwardness.
When both King Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn) and his chosen heir, Thomas (Dean Charles-Chapman) die, the weight of the crown and bringing together a segregated nation fall on Hal’s shoulders (Timothée Chalamet), a rebellious prince- now King Henry V. The new king has to navigate his ways among court politics and advisors, and it seems that the only person he can turn to for help is his long-term friend Sir John Falstaff (Joel Edgerton).
The film has the unique feel of developing very slowly while at the same time brushing over certain aspects of the plot, which are not being given enough emphasis and cannot land the heavy punches they should- there is little preamble to Henry IV’s or Thomas’ deaths, to which everyone at court seems to be indifferent. Likewise, prince Hal seems more of jaded teenager than a rebellious prince; his wayward ways do not seem so…wayward. I guess that makes sense when overnight he turns into one responsible king ready to unite land and country?
The coronation scene, however, is beautifully done; there is gravitas to it and a certain chill to see the prince ”blessed” with the sudden weight of the crown. An aspect that writers John Edgerton and David Michôd got absolutely right is depicting the battle scenes, which seemed so real I found myself getting slightly claustrophobic when the soldiers were suffocating or anxious when the battlefield was filling with weapons, horses and restricted vision. Raw, visceral and real, showing battle for what it is: a merciless butchering of some people for the land, vanity or causes of others. The production design (headed by Fiona Crombie) was beautiful throughout the whole film, as was the cinematography (Adam Arkapaw).
Overall, ‘The King’ is rather slow-pacing and flat, with fewer climatic moments. It is beautiful and quirky at times. Nice to watch, but not inventive or unique. The choice of cast as well, did not seem so inspired, as Chalamet seems yet too inexperienced to play Henry V, although that has nothing to do with his talent. Perhaps swapping Pattinson’ and Chalamet’s roles would have been more impactful. Joel Edgerton is delightful as Sir John Falstaff, while Lily-Rose Depp makes for a convincing Catherine of Valois. A special mention should go to Tom Glynn-Carney, who plays the angered Hotspur son rather well.