Few films, if any, have been as highly anticipated over the past few years as David Lowrey’s version of the Arthurian legend. I’ve probably been hearing about this one for at least two years. The Green Knight is a grand, epic adventure filled with supernatural elements and mythology, but also a very poignant story about what makes character.
Unlike many Knights’ tales built on unshakable chivalry and honor, this portrayal of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one that’s rooted very much in human fallibility. Lowrey’s “hero” spends most of his time drinking and patronizing the local brothel, firmly engulfed by the shadow of his legendary uncle King Arthur. When confronted by the gravity of Arthur’s presence in front of the other knights, Gawain has no stories to tell. So, when a mysterious Green Knight appears in Arthur’s court challenging anyone to a game, Gawain seizes the opportunity to prove himself. However, the game is much more than it appears and it leads Gawain on a real adventure that tests the limits of his body and his spirit.
Dev Patel is great in the lead as Gawain and it’s a performance that gets better as it goes. The youthful and carefree philanderer is a fairly easy character to play but it’s in Gawain’s journey of self-discovery that we get to see Patel’s skill as a performer come through. The character isn’t rigidly predictable in his intentions and convictions, which helps allow Patel to show us an unconventional knight’s tale with great effectiveness.
Alicia Vikander pulled double duty in dual roles, playing Gwain’s lover and a mysterious woman he meets on the road. Especially considering Gawain’s character, it was important to give Patel a sympathetic dance partner, and having an Oscar-winner in there was a big get. Vikander gets to show off her versatility through a pair of women who are polar opposites and gives each of them depth.
Joel Edgerton and Barry Keoghan give some very entertaining performances that help enrich the story of Gawain’s journey. Edgerton is hilarious and I wouldn’t have minded more of his portion of the story.
When you are in it, it feels like it’s dragging a big. It’s not even particularly long at 2hr 10m, but Lowrey operates at a methodical pace. However, that time isn’t wasted. Andrew Droz Palermo’s cinematography is breathtaking and Daniel Hart’s music is a fitting travel companion. There is a ton of world-building going on and it’s got the feel of a Guillermo Del Toro film in its visual design and reminds me of a mix between Beowulf and Pan’s Labyrinth.
Recommendation: If you are into medieval adventure, this is like the Blade Runner of that genre. It’s going to age well.
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