95 / 100
Watchable Minutes : The whole film is gorgeous and masterfully crafted without a single wasted frame.
Trailer Comparison : Given my fascination with Arthurian lore and medieval fantasy, but next to zero background knowledge of the source material, I thought that The Green Knight was going to be a little more hack and slash. The trailer definitely sells you a more action packed movie than what you actually ended up watching but there’s no way that you could have boiled down this film into a two minute trailer and actually generated interest so I understand why there’s a distinct difference between the two.
Movie or Film : I’m a big fan of medieval fantasy and Arthurian lore. I loved T.A Barron’s Merlin series as a kid who just finished Harry Potter and wanted a more traditional wizard character to latch on to and that series definitely made an impact on me. If you read my Top 10 Animated movies post then you know that I love the classic Disney Animation “The Sword in the Stone” movie from way back when. I knew nothing other than the barebones material about The Green Knight so I was expecting some more “hack and slash” action but with an A24 flare and was still very satisfied with what I got instead. The Green Knight is a tale of morality and chivalry and living with a code of honor, doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do and not for repayment. These are timeless lessons and were told marvelously well throughout the run time of the film.
- Run time : 2 hr 10 min
- Studio : A24
- Director : David Lowry
- Where to Watch : In Theaters
Sir Gawain is the nephew of the great and powerful King Arthur but has no stories of valor and honor as he frequently commits acts of debauchery that are unbecoming of a knight who seeks a seat at King Arthur’s Round Table. On Christmas Day, Gawain celebrates with the King’s court when a mysterious Green Knight appears with a challenge for any man brave enough to accept it. Gawain leaps at the chance to prove himself worthy and acts swiftly without considering the consequences. Now Gawain must live with the repercussions of his decision in hopes to prove his worth and honor to his family and the kingdom.
Now if you’re like me, you know enough about King Arthur to be dangerous but wouldn’t be able to summarize more than a few myths of his exploits. Sir Gawain’s tale is one of those that I had never heard of before the film was announced. I did a little research about the character and A24 must have realized that it wasn’t the most mainstream story around so they produced a short video that gives you the perfect dose of background info to get you up to speed. I’ve linked it here so I recommend you watch this first before you go see the film or if you’re confused after watching it, this might help you piece some things together and fill in some gaps. After watching it, it’s clear that there are several important factors and aspects to consider in this story. The first being honor, a social currency that will dictate your success in life. Honorable men recognize honorable men and that’s how you get ahead in King Arthur’s kingdom. The second is chivalry, which goes hand in hand with honor. It is what keeps the kingdom together and is exemplified in King Arthur’s speech at the Christmas dinner. He so clearly appreciates his fellow countrymen’s sacrifices to keep his kingdom safe and prosperous that he considers himself the lucky one to be in their company and not the other way around. It’s a typical King Arthur speech that really explains what the most important traits of a character of this world should have. This is when we see the type of person that Gawain is really come to the forefront. When the Green Knight appears and declares his challenge, Gawain is hesitant and not bold like a knight should be. Then when he is enabled to accept the challenge, he leaps headfirst to the most violent action and dooms himself to meet the same fate by the rules of the game he entered into with the Green Knight. It’s a valuable lesson that very simply boils down to don’t dish it out if you can’t take it. And sure enough, Gawain realizes the error of his ways when the Green Knight picks up his own decapitated head off the floor and sentences Gawain to the same fate one year hence. There was no mercy shown to the Green Knight, therefore Gawain will receive none. This violates another tenet of knighthood, knowing when and where to act violently and further proves that Gawain needs this quest prove himself worthy. There are several other such lessons and the entire motif of knighthood makes many appearances throughout the film until the very end. I won’t spoil the journey that Gawain goes on because it is one that is worth watching and learning from yourself. Perfect score on the story aspect.
The casting for The Green Knight is phenomenal. Dev Patel knocks it out to the park as the flawed but redeemed Gawain with emotional range and hunger for recognition to convince anybody. Joel Edgerton was a surprise for me, as I wasn’t aware of what his character would be. He was mysterious and almost chaotic when paired with Alicia Vikander’s Lady (she also played Essel, the consort of Gawain in Camelot). Both of them sought to entrap Dev Patel’s character in their castle for any misdeeds that he might commit and while they seemed kind and welcoming on the surface, you could feel something sinister lurking below, just out of sight. As for King Arthur and the Queen, I thought that Sean Harris and Katie Dickie made quite the royal couple that carried real weight and a certain element of gravitas. Although I don’t like Sean Harris’s voice that he was doing. It was interesting, but I don’t think King Arthur would sound like he smoked 6 packs a day. Speaking of voices, Ralph Ineson, the Green Knight himself, was the perfect casting. His voice is otherworldly and the way that that his speech was delivered just made it seem old with an e. David Lowry molded the green knight to become Ineson it feels like, because it was such a natural pairing.
David Lowry is the writer director of The Green Knight. His previous work with never really made it across my radar or into my watchlists so this is kind of an out of nowhere hit for him as far as I’m concerned. He’s quoted as saying that the delay between production ending and the release of the film allowed him to recut the film to make it more in line with his personal vision which makes perfect sense. If you read the source article, he also mentions that the original cut was close to three hours long and the final cut comes in at just over two hours. There’s a lot of pretty establishing shots and slow transitions that certainly contribute to a long run time but I’m sure if it was closer to the three hour mark, The Green Knight would have lost some of it’s identity as films of that length tend to go for style over substance.
The visuals of The Green Knight are stunning and impressive. There are so many different shades of color throughout the movie and each location was filled with hundreds of tiny details and layers. You could pause the movie every few minutes and spend an hour just looking at the scene to see what all there was to see. The scoring was equally impressive, with ethereal tones and swells that fit the visuals perfectly. With the help of Daniel Hart (Score) and Andrew Droz Palermo (Director of Photography), Lowry produced a wonderfully paced, excellently shot and well written movie.
I love A24 and I think they are one of my all-time favorite studios aside from Lucasfilm and Neon. They make some of the most thought provoking and well received movies that I’ve ever seen and will hopefully have a large influence on the industry as mainstream Hollywood continues to pump out sequels, reboots, and cinematic universes. The Green Knight, directed by David Lowry is one of the best movies I’ve seen so far in 2021. I felt safe enough to go see it in theaters and it did not disappoint on the big screen so I highly recommend you do that as well if possible in your area. You do need to go in with an open mind but if you can do that, you won’t be disappointed.
If you like this, check out :
- Robin Hood : Prince of Thieves
- The Princess Bride
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy