Pros: Rich costumes and scenery; an impressive depiction of the Battle of Agincourt; good ensemble cast Cons: Timothée Chalamet is simply not suitable for this role; Shakespeare’s original text has been substantially rewritten by The King
Genre historical drama
Directed by David Michaud
Cast: Timothée Chalamet (Henry V), Joel Edgerton (Falstaff), Robert Pattinson (Dauphine Louis), Ben Mendelsohn (Henry IV), Sean Harris (Michael Williams), Lily-Rose Depp (Catherine Valois), Tom Glynn-Carney ( Henry “Hotspur” Percy) and others.
Plan B Entertainment Studios, Netflix
Year of release 2019
“Henry V” is one of the most popular Shakespearean chronicles. The play was staged in theaters all over the world and filmed many times. In the first film adaptation in 1944, released immediately after the landing in Normandy and saturated with military propaganda, the role of the king was played by the great Laurence Olivier, who also acted as the director of the film. In the 1989 film, this role was played by a young Kenneth Branagh, who received two Oscar nominations for this film – as an actor and as a director. The 2012 TV series The Hollow Crown, which includes the entire historical chronicle of Shakespeare, starred Tom “Loki” Hiddleston as Henry V.
Well, now the young American-French actor Timothée Chalamet, noticed by critics after the film Call Me by Your Name, has joined this titled company. For his role in this film, Chalamet received nominations for the Golden Globe, BAFTA and Oscar, becoming the youngest contender for the highest film award since 1939. However, from our point of view, the choice of Timothée Chalamet for the main role in The King is one of the main mistakes the creators of the film.
No, the young performer has not lost his talent at all; in some scenes, in the same very emotional speech before the Battle of Agincourt, he looks very bright and convincing, besides, the actor’s bilingualism is very appropriate in the case of the film adaptation of Shakespeare’s chronicles. The problem is that for the remaining two and a half hours, Timothée Chalamet looks sleepy, lethargic and indecisive, not at all the ideal king that Shakespeare described. In addition, when the frankly skinny Chalamet dons full armor and takes to the battlefield against knights several times larger than him, it looks simply ridiculous.
The King is not a historical chronicle, so don’t look for accuracy in it. But the problem is that this is not a literal adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays. From the original “Henry V”, and the pieces “Henry IV, Part 1” and “Henry IV, Part 2” at the very beginning, only the general outline remains here. The magical transformation of the drunkard and loafer prince into the sun king, caring for the good of his subjects and the state. A king who wants peace so much that he is forced to start a bloody massacre and commit a number of actions that today would be interpreted as war crimes. Otherwise, this is not exactly Shakespeare, but rather an interpretation of Shakespeare by actor Joel Edgerton (Red Sparrow, Zero Dark Thirty, Black Mass).
It was Edgerton who became the screenwriter of the film and played one of the main roles in it, the role of Falstaff, a cowardly and boastful drunkard, friend of Prince Hal, the future king Henry V. The only thing is that in the original “Henry V” Falstaff is no longer there, he is a character “Henry IV, Part 1” and “Henry IV, Part 2”, in which he is exposed as a comic hero, a drinking companion and interlocutor of the prince, a braggart and a coward. In the film The King, Falstaff is more of a tragic character, the only one Henry trusts, whose wise advice and self-sacrifice allow the king to defeat the French at Agincourt.
However, this is not the only discrepancy with Shakespeare’s text. In general, the whole of The King is a little bit different. This film is about how an inexperienced and straightforward monarch can become a toy in the hands of his subjects and… about the loneliness of the king. And also, suddenly, about the importance of family.
This is not the first time Australian director David Michaud, who directed The King, has collaborated with Netflix. His previous film, the anti-war satire War Machine with Brad Pitt, was also released on this streaming service. This time Michaud was entrusted with a larger budget, and he spent it in a big way.
The King is actually very well shot. There are gorgeous costumes and decorations here, and the battle scenes are staged no worse than in the same Outlaw King. First of all, we are talking about a skirmish in the mud during the Battle of Agincourt, filmed in one camera. However, the real siege engines and the military camp during the siege of Harfleur also look very impressive. By the way, the king’s landing in France seems to deliberately copy the landing in Normandy in 1944.
In addition, David Michaud assembled a very strong acting ensemble in his film. In addition to the above-mentioned Timothée Chalamet and Joel Edgerton, the film featured such good actors as Robert Pattinson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Twilight), Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline series, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Sean Harris (miniseries Southcliffe, Macbeth). Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, stars in the role of Catherine Valois.
Despite the participation of good actors and an impressive budget, The King leaves a very ambivalent impression. Fans of historical films will be frightened by the huge number of liberties and inaccuracies made by Shakespeare. Connoisseurs of the English playwright’s work will be offended by such a free treatment of the text of the original works. David Micheaux wanted to make a Shakespeare film so different from other Shakespeare films that he seems to have gotten himself confused. However, The King is a really beautiful movie, if you have a Netflix subscription and love costume movies, at least bookmark it.
The King is not the best adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henriad, but it is probably the most expensive