The King Movie Review
Hey, look, Netflix made the Outlaw King again. A year after giving audiences the technically beautiful yet emotionally flat medieval drama, the studio has unveiled another beautifully filmed yet emotionally flat medieval drama—this one called The King, about the early days of Henry V’s reign.
Timothée Chalamet stars as Henry V, who assumes control of England after his father dies, leaving for his son a volume of internal and foreign crises. According to Chalamet and writers Joel Edgerton and David Michôd, who also directed, Henry V was an angry and soulful young man, opting to convey just about every emotion and word with the same, scrunched-face scowl.
It’s hard to call Chalamet’s performance bad, per se, as the Call Me By Your Name actor brings an emotional intensity to the role—but the performance is notably narrow, Chalamet rarely showing range or charisma. Chalamet, and really the movie as a whole, fails to let the audience in—keeping the story distant and hard to relate to.
The King, while draped in shades of gray, black, mud and shadows, is nonetheless a beautiful film. Michôd’s world building is proficient; the film feels real, the bleakness of the characters, castles, and lands gorgeous in a gritty, ancient kind of way. The director’s use of color, or lack thereof, paints a vividly dark canvas.
A little color, even metaphorically, would have helped, however.
Michôd maintains such a melancholy atmosphere throughout that it’s near impossible to grasp onto any real highs. Grounded by Chalamet’s ever-angry performance but also by its downtrodden screenplay, Michôd never establishes why the audience should care about anything that happens. Even Henry’s crowning achievement at the Battle of Agincourt feels subdued, in part because Michôd struggles to capture the scale or importance of the battle, his devotion to atmosphere consuming everything else.
Despite its shortcomings, The King manages to draw you in; it’s just a shame it amounts to so little.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.