The first time I heard about The King, Timotheé Chalamet’s most recent project since the illustrious Call Me by Your Name and Lady Bird, I was ecstatic. When it finally came out on Netflix, I jumped at the chance to watch the film.
The King is a film about the beginning of King Henry V’s reign as one of the youngest kings of England and is based on several of William Shakespeare’s plays from “Henriod.” Before becoming King, Henry (Timotheé Chalamet), or “Hal” , as his friends call him, spends his days whoring, drinking, and fooling around until he is suddenly beckoned by his father for a meeting. Hal is told that he will not inherit the crown upon his father’s death, and instead, his younger brother Thomas shall take his father’s place. Soon after, however, Thomas is killed in a battle in Wales, and soon after his father dies too. Inevitably, Hal becomes King Henry V, and he is keen on separating himself from his father’s affairs. Striving for concord in the Kingdom, King Henry calls for reconciliation with his father’s adversaries, but soon Hal distinctly gains some of his own enemies.
At his coronation, King Henry is gifted a ball from the Dauphin of France, which is considered to be an insult. Not keen on igniting war, the King attributes the ball as a token of his childhood. In the coming days, the King learns of an additional assassin sent from France to kill him. Pressured by members of the court, King Henry declares war against France and travels to their shores to fight. By Hal’s side is his old drinking buddy and trusted companion, John Falstaff (Joel Edgerton). Falstaff’s war hero status and military knowledge serves as a comfort to Hal’s reservations and woes, and their relationship in the film is one of the only warm tones viewers get to see. In France, viewers finally get to see the notorious Dauphin of France (Robert Pattison) who is keen on psychologically intimidating the king by, in one scene, (BEWARE: GORY DESCRIPTION) beheading an English boy helping to fight and sending his head back to the King as a sign of power. It is this impetus that sparks the climactic Battle of Agincourt in which King Henry fights alongside his soldiers in muddy terrain, with showers of English longbow arrows aiding their fight. This adaptation of Shakespeare’s works tell tales of bravery, war, and loyalty. Just don’t expect a warm and fuzzy ending.
As he typically does, Timotheé Chalamet executes the role of King Henry with great precision and conciseness. He consistently channels his energy into that of a debauchery playboy turned unexpected King in a calculated manner that makes the shift from irresponsibility to oh-shit-I’m-King quite visible. Watching Chalamet, he was so poised in his role that I was able to forget about the abysmal bowl cut he gets halfway through. The role of King Henry V in this film is one that is privy to a static pattern of graveness and seriousness, but Chalamet is able to build layers within his character in a nuanced manner that shows a character developing humanity, while still maintaining astringent roughness. Chalamet’s range is not to be underestimated, and in a role as weighty as this, he handles it with such great power and depth.
Joel Edgerton is a co writer of the film and in doing so, his ability to write the part of Falstaff for himself was so entirely fitting. The role of Falstaff served as a complement to Hal’s seriousness, as Falstaff’s wit and humor can be likened to the character’s comedic relief in Shakespeare’s plays. Though, the role in this film serves a greater purpose in that his wisdom gives the film the specs of benevolent thought that makes it bearable. Edgerton fits the role perfectly, his hearty persona but rough exterior is synonymous with the character, and he plays the part impeccably.
I won’t go into Robert Pattison and Lily Rose Depps’ parts too deeply, only to say that the few scenes in which they were in were spectacular. They were the scene stealers — each word written for them was executed with proficiency that it compelled my ears and eyes to the screen. I would say if you’re not interested in the film at all, just watch for the chance to hear Robert Pattison speak in a faux-french accent. After hearing that, try watching the up and coming Batman.
The film overall was well-done. Michod’s usage of the camera is well observed in that it does not glorify war, but instead demonstrates the carnage and useless bloodshed that cohabits it. Combine this with the dull colors and cinematography of the film, and as a viewer, you really are able to feel as though you too are a miserable English citizen or soldier in the middle of everything-smells-bad-I-can’t-believe-we’re-in-another-war Middle-Century England. This being said, the film likely won’t have much power going into awards season as other films will. It is more so under the radar than other blockbuster contenders such as Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood or The Irishman, and with a few imbalances in the script and slowness in pacing at times, it won’t carry the same weight as Netflix’s gem last year, Roma. However, Chalamet once again demonstrates his ability as an actor and it is likely that his previous Oscar nomination is not to be a one time occurrence. Besides the powerful acting of such a young yet brilliantly talented actor, the film carries itself firmly in its discussion of morality, something which the characters speak of often, but more importantly the film demonstrates the power of greed and uselessness of violence/warfare — a striking and implicit commentary that one may observe based on the political era in which we live.