Friday, July 30

The Green Knight Review

The Green Knight

Dir: David Lowery

Starring: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Barry Keoghan, Erin Kellyman, and Ralph Ineson

2h 5m


In the early moments of director David Lowery's enthralling and visionary "The Green Knight," the words "filmed adaptation of the chivalric romance by anonymous" introduces the viewer to this Arthurian coming-of-age story. The legend of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is an influential work of English literature, a 14th-century tale about morality, nobility, fate, hope, salvation, vanity, and many more themes that have been studied and debated about by scholars. 


The brilliance of David Lowery's vision, perhaps better to call it a hallucination, for "The Green Knight" is that the film isn't interested in finding understanding. It never positions itself for easy answers but instead lavishes in the knots it finds while unraveling the quest from the Round Table into the forest citadel. It has everything that current times have instilled into stories of knights in shining armor, adventure, danger, monsters, witches, spirits, and bloodshed. But "The Green Knight" never feels modernized; instead, there is no effort to update the language or repurpose the legend to fit a comfortable popcorn movie style. "The Green Knight" casts a spell of storytelling, an absorbing and visually beguiling tale. 


A gloomy and dank village, seemingly shrouded in a layer of fog, is home to an aged and sickly King Arthur (Sean Harris). Gawain (Dev Patel) is the arrogant nephew of Arthur; his mother (Sarita Choudhury) is a powerful sorceress. Gawain lacks ambition, spending most of his time passed out in a brothel while seeking the attention of Essel (Alicia Vikander). But Gawain wants to be a knight, seated at the Round Table of King Arthur, praised and adored for his heroism.


The Green Knight (voiced by Ralph Ineson) rides into the Round Table chambers; the monster looks made of ancient wood and carries a green ax. He offers a challenge to any knight brave enough to land one single blow against him. Gawain, seeing a chance to prove himself, jumps, sword in hand, at the opportunity. The Green Knight does not fight; instead, he offers himself to the attack. Gawain, startled for a moment, strikes the Green Knight, cutting his head off. Gawain, being cheered by the other knights is proud, until the Green Knight reawakens, picks his head up, and rides off with a laugh, knowing that Gawain must meet him in one year to face the same challenge. 


David Lowery is in complete control of the vision for this Arthurian adventure tale, character fable, artistic metaphor. The film is paced methodically. "Slow burn" might be an accurate description for some viewers looking for more swashbuckling and swordplay. However, some will relish the visual gracefulness that engulfs nearly every scene of this film. Lowery interplays literal and metaphorical themes on life and death, nobility and cowardice, humbleness and vanity. The composition of nature, both in the overgrown and dying landscapes, the densely consuming and light scattering fog, all serves as some variation of meaning to the journey of Gawain. The folly of man, the seduction of glory, the demise of the world, and so forth. "The Green Knight" has much to say. 


Dev Patel is excellent, a career-best performance. The naïve, almost teenage-like arrogance of Gawain plays nicely as the stakes grow closer to the request Gawain must honor, one that displays the character's spinelessness and selfishness. Patel, with his heroic good looks and likable swagger, plays the deeply flawed Gawain impeccably. Add Alicia Vikander in a subtle yet essential role, Joel Edgerton as a harbinger of mortality, and Barry Keoghan as an extended version of Gawain. The cast makes the visionary quest all the more appealing. 


"The Green Knight" is complicated yet utterly beautiful cinema. An allegory comes to life with impressive performances and confident direction from David Lowery. 


Monte's Rating

4.50 out of 5.00


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