Among the many standout shows and movies coming to Netflix this November, David Michod’s Netflix Original movie, “The King,” struck first with its Nov. 1 release.
According to IMDb, “The King” is partly inspired by Shakespeare’s plays about King Henry V of England and partly inspired by true events. History buffs may question the latter because some of the biggest criticisms of “The King” thus far have been its leniency to stretch the truth and alter historical events during King Henry V’s reign.
“The King’s” central character is Hal (Chalamet), a wayward prince and heir to the English throne. Hal, however, does not have the best relationship with his sickly father, King Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn), so early on it’s decided that his younger brother, Thomas (Dean-Charles Chapman), will take the reins when Henry IV dies.
After a series of incidents, Hal ultimately takes the throne as King Henry V. Throughout the movie, Hal must navigate his way through sneaky politicians, his father’s enemies and his own inner struggles and beliefs. The movie explores themes of masculinity, deception and loyalty.
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“The King” will appeal to “Game of Thrones” fans because of its medieval politics and similarly executed battle scenes aided by superb acting and beautiful cinematography. But it will also appeal to those who prefer gritty storytelling and a lack of fantasy elements in a medieval tale.
While “The King” may slog at points developing its story over a two hour, twenty-minute run time, due to a screenplay that lacks some snap, crackle and pop, the character development and performances manage to keep the story engaging long enough to set up a phenomenal second act.
Its when King Henry V ultimately decides to go to war with and sail to France where the movie gets exciting. Enter Robert Pattinson.
Robert Pattinson, while only appearing in two or three scenes, is wildly entertaining as the disrespectful French Dauphin. He serves as the primary antagonist to Chalamet’s King Henry V, taunting him at every chance he gets. Pattinson purposely puts his performance over-the-top with an extreme French-English accent to make his character larger-than-life and ridiculous.
Pattinson raises the stakes for our protagonist and makes us more invested in King Henry V’s quest to defeat France and unite their two kingdoms.
It might feel like Chalamet is out of place as the wayward prince at the beginning of the movie, but he settles in and only grows stronger as his character develops and the movie advances.
Chalamet’s muted and subtle performance as King Henry V makes his scenes more savory and his emotional breakouts that much more riveting and powerful. The only caveat is that audiences may lust for more of Chalamet’s emotional breakouts, which are few and far between.
His performance reaches awards-worthy heights in the final third of the movie. His speech before the historical Battle of Agincourt with the French is truly stirring and chilling. But it’s what comes after the battle, the final few scenes of the movie, that make his performance truly special.
The screenplay is brilliant in those final scenes, making it easy for the actors like Chalamet, Sean Harris and Lily-Rose Depp to elevate the material. You just wish that the screenplay was as savvy the rest of the movie.
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The best part about Chalamet’s performance here though doesn’t have to do with any specific choice he made for the character, but rather how his performance as a whole stands out and differs from his previous work.
His two most noteworthy performances are in “Call Me by Your Name” and “Beautiful Boy.” He plays a teenager struggling with love and sexual orientation in the former, and a teen struggling with drug addiction in the latter. He proved how diverse he could be with these two roles, and he furthers that notion here, pulling off the English accent and taking on a more authoritative role with grace and ease.
Blending into and differentiating one performance from another is a true sign of elite acting skill, so it’s no wonder why every major director in Hollywood is after Chalamet right now. Looking ahead, he is set to star alongside a remarkable female cast in Greta Gerwig’s Christmas release, “Little Women.” In 2020 he is set to star in Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune,” and Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” alongside all-star casts in both movies.
With an Oscar nomination and two Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations already under his belt at 23 years old, as long as Chalamet continues to take complex roles, there is no reason he can’t be the DiCaprio of this next generation.
Chalamet and Pattinson are not the only sources of star power in “The King,” however.
Sean Harris and “The King’s” Co-Writer, Joel Edgerton, are excellent in their supporting roles as Henry V’s primary advisors. Harris plays Chief Justice William and Edgerton plays John Falstaff, King Henry V’s military general and friend.
Falstaff is the only character in the movie who was not real, rather he is a combination of many real people. These two characters are well-developed and speak some of the movie’s most important and intriguing dialogue. They are the yin and yang in Henry’s ear throughout the film.
Despite “The King” receiving resounding reviews from audiences, the reviews from critics are only generally favorable as a whole. “The King’s” most impressive qualities: set design, cinematography and acting may not be enough to push the film into any major award contention. For a movie so royal, it suffers from some odd editing choices and a lack of emotionally moving and compelling moments to be so memorable.
When “The King” works, it really works, but only occasionally do all the parts align to create something truly gratifying. It’s easy to love the movie on a personal level, but objectively, it’s also easy to point out how some of it could have been structured differently.