“All Hail The King”. That’s exactly what the BFI Film Festival programmers have in their minds every year. Last year they choose for “The Outlaw King” and now their eyes fell on “The King”.
It’s crystal clear that they know their “men in their chain mail” films as this newest movie from director David Michôd (“Animal Kingdom”, “The Rover”) can charm us big time.
Michôd takes you back to the 15th Century England where King Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn) and his kingdom are standing on their last legs. Most of the soldiers who went to battle never returned home and more blood has been shed than ever before.
Henry IV sees this as a sacrifice for the greater good but not everyone sees it that way. Percy (Tom Glynn-Carney), a young soldier, is rebelling against his king and later on also against the whole country.
While his father is gravely ill, ‘Hal’ (Timothée Chalamet) has no intention of taking over the crown. The only thing he wants to do is living a great life with friends and lovers at the local pub. That innocent and youthful life is about to change completely when his father dies.
We follow Hal’s entire journey. From battling by his brother’s side to becoming King Henry V and from being the target of an assassination to going to war against The Dauphin of France (Robert Pattinson).
He already survived many battles and wars but what will become of him during this battle with France? Who will fight by his side and who will stab him in the back?
That the lives of Henry IV and his son are very tumultuous ones, we all know from our history lessons. Director Michôd wanted to tell as much of these fascinating stories as possible what resulted in an action-packed film. It goes from left to right and in every direction possible which can cause confusion at some points.
The story goes every way it can go and there’s one element in “The King” that keeps it together and that’s Chalamet (“Beautiful Boy”, “Lady Bird”) his mature performance. He has come a long way since his “Call Me by Your Name” and that’s doing him good.
That chain mail looks great on him and with a sword by the hand, he could battle against every enemy. Chalamet is lively and vivid as the young man who wants to have a great time but fierce, ferocious and compassionate as the King. If we would have been one of his shoulders, we would have loved hearing those speeches in real life.
Another actor who mesmerized us with his speech is Glynn-Carney (“Tolkien”, “Dunkirk”). His furious monologue as Percy at the beginning of the film got us on the edge of our seat. We don’t see much of him but that talk and the sword scene against Chalamet’s Henry V make up for that big time.
After being part of the Marvel Universe this year in films such as “Captain Marvel” and “Spider-Man: Far from Home”, Mendelsohn’s now going towards a darker side. That Henry IV was a tyrannical, emotionless and stubborn ruler becomes clear thanks to Mendelsohn’s fine acting.
One of the most impressive performances in this film comes without a doubt from Joel Edgerton (“Boy Erased”, “Red Sparrow”) as Sir John Falstaff, friend and advisor from Henry V. He brings wittiness, cleverness but also seriousness and more darkness to this movie and the scenes with Chalamet are worth gold!
If there’s one character or better-said actor that’s out of place, it’s Pattinson (“High Life”, “Good Time”) and his The Dauphin of France. Ok, yes if you’re not a native English speaker, your mother tongue dialect can come through but come on, his French accent while speaking English is just way too much.
To rule a kingdom, you need charisma, power, and personality. Well, that everything Pattinson doesn’t have in this film. Sadly, he’s also responsible for one of the biggest anti-climaxes we’ve seen in a very long time. Whether it was just bad casting or wrong character development, you will have a fun time while watching it. Maybe not for the right reasons.
“The King” isn’t only about those big speeches, bloody battles, and strategic gatherings, it’s also about emotions. Some actors succeed in showing very fitting ones while others don’t.
We would love to have seen also more female emotions but towards the end, Lily-Rose Depp (“Savage”, “A Faithful Man”) appears as the beautiful young girl who sweeps one of the men of his feet with her charm and cleverness.
Cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (“The Light Between Oceans”, “Light of My Life”) his work is extraordinary in this movie and for that reason, you should watch this film on the big screen. From the dark corners of Hal and Falstaff’s favourite tavern to that heated scene during which England launching fireballs onto the French castle. We go from shadow to light and back to the gloomy vibe that’s hanging over England.
Saying that Netflix is incredibly present during the current film festivals all over the world would be a complete understatement. You will be able to watch upcoming films such as “The Irishman”, “Marriage Story” and “The Two Popes” soon and you can add “The King” to that list.
The big cinematic elements of this movie might get lost when seeing it on the small screen so go the biggest cinema you can find. You should head to the BFI Film Festival London on Friday the 4th and Sunday the 6th of October to see this dark, violent and emotional film. If you want to see this in the comfort of your room then you have until the 1st of November.
(This review was written as part of the BFI Film Festival London coverage)