David Michôd’s “The King” begins in the same way that many gritty period pieces do: with a prince who is unexpectedly forced to take the throne after the death of his father. In this particular piece, the drunken and wayward Prince Hal (the phenomenal Timothée Chalamet) becomes King Henry V of England.
Hal inherits a country that is desperate for war and bloodshed despite the monarch’s own desire to make peace. With vengeful advisors and a taunting King Charles VI, Hal is eventually forced to enter into war with France which is led by the Dauphin (Robert Pattinson, who uses the most outrageous French accent).
The film, which is adapted from Shakespeare’s Henriad plays, follows Hal’s descent into war and violence. With no one he can trust besides his faithful friend Falstaff (Joel Edgerton), Hal is left to make decisions on his own that will impact his country’s future. Unlike many rulers of his time, Hal takes these decisions seriously. He knows that he has lives in his hands and tries his best to minimize bloodshed.
Unfortunately, he can only put off the bloodshed for so long. Eventually, the two armies come head to head in an epic battle scene. The scene is well done but will look almost too familiar to “Game of Thrones” viewers who are familiar with the show’s famous Battle of the Bastards.
While the battle is the climax of the film, the true beauty of the piece lies in Chalamet’s acting. With a bowl cut and a fresh English accent, Chalamet proves once again what a star he is and how lucky we all are to watch his rise to fame.
That is not to say that Chalamet is the only actor who shines on screen. Edgerton is a competent and mysterious Falstaff and Pattinson’s Dauphin is electric even when he is over the top. Despite these good performances, the best supporting actor is certainly Lily-Rose Depp, who only has a few scenes at the end but dominates the screen with her grace and flawless bone structure.
The acting and battle scenes are perhaps the only thing that “The King” has going for it. Many were hoping this film would be proof of the potential that Joel Edgerton has as a screenwriter, but like his previous film, “Boy Erased,” “The King” is both flat and uninteresting.
Instead of digging into the psyche of a young king forced to take his country to war, the film focuses much of its time on establishing side characters who are working behind the scenes to compromise or help the war effort. This wheeling and dealing within the palace walls is both confusing and feels inconsequential when compared to the battle scenes.
At its core, the story of King Henry V is not about war or politics, but about power, greed, corruption and coming of age in a precarious time. Unfortunately, the film loses track of these themes along the way. By failing to focus on Hal’s role in the story, the film wastes the talents of its actors on a plot that feels familiar and dull.
Hopefully, Chalamet’s next leading role in Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of “Dune” will prove to be a better use of the young actor’s talent and charisma.
Edited by Joe Cross | firstname.lastname@example.org