Filmmaking is a tough art and making a historical drama is not a piece of cake. Many factors have to be taken into consideration starting from the dialect to authenticity of the story. So just like science fiction films, historical films cannot convince people easily.
The latest multi starrer film The King is available on Netflix before having a limited release in UK. This is not a film for people who want history to be portrayed exactly as it is. It is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Henriad (Henry Part IV 1,2 and Henry V). There have been a handful of films lightly or mainly based on Henriad – Chimes at Midnight, Henry V and My Own Private Idaho. Henry V was directly adapted and it was a good adaptation. But what makes The King quite different from Henry V is the down to earth adaptation of the play and handling of the story in a much more serious tone.
David Michod has proven his skills of executing a dark storyline with his earlier film Animal Kingdom. So, his take on The King felt more practical and realistic. The strong cast such as Timothée Chalamet, Ben Mendelsohn, Sean Harris, Joel Edgerton and Robert Pattinson shouldered the film.
Casting Timothée Chalamet as Henry V was the bravest and the ideal decision the filmmaker has made.
Timothée is a promising actor and has been the talk of the town as ‘The Next Christian Bale’. He has been part of great films, nailing each role with sheer excellence. But each of his roles were almost similar in certain aspects and it was clear that he was happy in his comfort zone. So, Henry V in The King is a role where he evolved as an actor and this could be the breakthrough role in his career showcasing his versatility. He was ideal as Henry V, a teenage character with its vulnerabilities. Timothée could easily essay the role flawlessly as he was almost the same age as the character.
Even though the film revolves around Henry V, other supporting characters get to shine in the limited screen time provided in the film. Be it Capricious Henry IV, Unintelligible William Gascoigne, Loyal Falstaff or even Blusterous gloat The Dauphin – Each role was deftly played and aided in the development of Henry V.
After the disappointing and substandard Twilight Series, Robert Pattinson has revived his career by carefully choosing projects that challenge his acting capabilities. The role as The Dauphin in this film is another instance where he gives a stellar performance. He nearly stole the limelight off Timothée by his unmatched screen presence. His French accent was perfect blending well with his exquisite body language. The witty and hilarious dialogues in his scenes were the topping on his performance.
The King standouts when the film throws the viewers in a rabbit’s hole towards the very end
The King is a factual take on the real history behind the infamous Battle of Agincourt. Most of the story that leads to the Battle of Agincourt is true history with an addition of a fictional character Falstaff played by Joel Edgerton. The strategy used in the battle to outplay The French was something that almost happened in the real battle. Thousands of The English surprisingly defeated The French army 5 times their size in French territory.
The visuals were beguiling and dim light to impart the sombre approach of that Era. The sets were of high quality giving out a palatial outlook. Every scene was spectacular and meticulously captured. Not to forget, the final battle scene (Battle of Agincourt) which is so fervent and unfeigned making it one of the best realistic battle scenes.
The King standouts when the film throws the viewers in a rabbit’s hole towards the very end. When the film ends, a dialogue that will come to our mind is the conspicuous one between Falstaff and Henry V – a subtle warning.
“Kings have no friends, only followers and foes.”
The political outplay in the end – a peace seeking king tricked into going to war, portrays society then and now – selfish, greedy and manipulative.
Having said everything, The King as a whole was a great film with impeccable contribution from every department. But somehow it fell in the trap of cliched issues that happen in most historical films. The most affected was the dialect. Most of the times they tried to enunciate a Medieval or Bard’s dialect but sometimes the Modern English dialect was used. That didn’t work in their favour and sounded obnoxious. The hatred between Henry IV and Henry V was confusing. Everyone knows they can’t stand each other but there wasn’t any conclusive reason why Henry V was at loggerheads with his father. This could have been explained so that we could also hate that so-called treacherous man.
As mentioned much earlier, Battle of Agincourt was magnificently captured but it was difficult for audience to distinguish between the enemies in that battle. The battling armies hardly wore a jupon with their coat-of-arms or even a red cross of St. George, making it impossible to them in the muddy, bloody scrum we witness. Such identifiers were common in this era and absolutely necessary in any battle.
Overall, The King is dark, profound and gritty. The film boasts of well-paced execution, elegant visuals and unimpeachable performances. The film gave us one of the best historical films in the past two decades.