Review by Camden Ferrell
From Netflix, The King is the newest movie from director David Michôd (War Machine) that premiered at the 2019 Venice Film Festival. Written by Michôd and Joel Edgerton (Boy Erased), this is a period piece that favors style over substance that ultimately feels bland and tired.
Based on a number of Shakespearian works, this movie follows Hal, a young man who becomes King Henry V of England. With his new title, he must lead the country through war and other political troubles. It has such rich source material, but it never has the same heart or tenacity as Shakespeare’s works. While few things can have such prowess, Edgerton’s and Michôd’s script doesn’t feel as thorough and engaging as it could have been.
It also doesn’t do much to create a unique and immersive world that represents 15th century England. The production design is adequate in most parts of this movie, but it doesn’t feel like there was much focus on the recreation of this world, and that’s why the setting feels very lackluster and uninspired.
Luckily, this movie does feature some pretty decent performances. Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name) leads this film as the titular king. He gives an admirable job as the young leader. He plays it with a stern confidence that fits the role and embodies the character. It’s evident that he gives the performance everything that he has, but it doesn’t always make up for the unengaging scenes throughout the film.
The movie also features a fairly decent supporting cast. Consisting of Robert Pattinson, Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn, and others, this is a cast that is forgettable but perfectly adequate. Even though some of their accents can be quite distracting, they are able to properly support Chalamet in his scenes. However, like Chalamet, their performances aren’t enough to combat many of the slower moments of this film.
If there is something that this film does well, it is its cinematography. It’s not groundbreaking by any means, but it is visually appealing throughout. It beautifully captures the bleak landscape and settings of the film, and it fits perfectly with the tone of the film. There are some really great shots and framing choices that can at least make this film solid on a superficial level.
However, this is ultimately an overlong and bloated film. Its themes are obvious, but they are not told or conveyed in a particularly original or meaningful way. It tackles the themes of power, war, and pride, but in the end, it doesn’t have too much to say. It’s a hollow attempt at recreating stories and messages that Shakespeare did much better.
The King may be suitable for period piece fanatics and fans of Chalamet, but it doesn’t have much else to offer. Its runtime is never justified, and many sections of this film can drag on far too long. It’s an attempt at telling the story about one young man’s rise to power, but it doesn’t succeed like it should have.
The King is currently streaming on Netflix.