"The Green Knight" stars Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Barry Keoghan, and Ralph Ineson. Released on July 30, 2021, the film has a knight embarking on a quest to confront a gigantic creature.
The film is written and directed by David Lowery, who also directed films such as "Ain't Them Bodies Saints", "Pete's Dragon", and "The Old Man & the Gun". It is based on the poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Everyone knows the story of King Arthur and his accomplishments via books and movies, but little do they know that there's one legend that involves one of his Knights of the Round Table. One that has him challenging a tree-like monster to a duel. A legend that happens to share the same blood as Arthur. This film sees writer/director David Lowery take his filmmaking skills to medieval times and introduce the Arthurian legend to modern audiences. Out of the movies that are out this weekend, this one happened to intrigue me the most because of A24's successful track record and Lowery himself, who has made a name for himself as a visionary storyteller. Plus, I do love me some Arthurian lore. With that said, let's travel back to the Middle Ages and see if this legend is as epic as it sounds.
The story centers on Gawain (Patel), a farm boy who is also the nephew of King Arthur (Harris). During a Christmas celebration, a mysterious creature known as the Green Knight (Ineson) arrives at the castle to seek a worthy opponent to take on his challenge. Gawain accepts the challenge and slays the Green Knight, who immediately survives and tells him to take a return blow in a year. Gawain then sets out on a journey across the dangerous land to confront the creature. Whenever there's a film that has the words "epic" and "fantasy" in its genre, it usually serves as a sign that it'll involve a lot of spectacle in its violence, magic, and CGI, similar to the "Lord of the Rings" films. While "The Green Knight" has those elements, its spectacle is far less traditional than your typical medieval fantasy blockbuster. It's a subtly grim and realistic take on the source material that showcases the character's coming-of-age journey to face his trials. It may not sound exciting to many people, but it does have an artistic sense of beauty in its story to compensate for its lack of high-stakes action. This is another film that saw David Lowery relying on the visuals and cinematography to represent his storytelling, ranging from the stellar production design to the lighting effects. The result is a magnificent piece of medieval cinema that's as thought-provoking as it was hauntingly beautiful. The story was highly fitting and absorbing regarding its underlying themes, and the performances from the cast were suitably honorable. Dev Patel was truly a sight to behold as he effectively balanced the emotions of Gawain, both internal and external. His performance was one of the best I've seen in quite a while. Sean Harris and Ralph Ineson were also astounding in their roles as King Arthur and the Green Knight, respectively, and Alicia Vikander represented her impressive talent once again as Lady. What I loved about the film was how Lowery managed to balance his narrative with the technical qualities surrounding it. In most cases, it can be straightforward for filmmakers to get lost in their films' appeal and lose focus on the stories they want to tell. Fortunately, Lowery was able to avoid that mistake. He quickly understood that the emotion and the human essence are a part of the film's visual splendor, not just the sceneries and CGI fight sequences. Because of this, I managed to feel fully immersed in the world it presented without feeling overwhelmed by its overabundant spectacle. I also really dug the film's incredible costume design and Daniel Hart's musical score. They successfully captured the appropriate soul of the film's timeline. Even though it succeeds in its gorgeousness, it can also be a slow burn for people who wanted some fast-paced action. Its two-hour-plus runtime might not make things any better either. However, both its appeal and pacing were respectable enough to slay those minor concerns in half.
Overall, "The Green Knight" is a marvelous cinematic adaptation of Sir Gawain's legend that's visually striking and narratively spellbinding. It's easy to admit that its quality and direction may not suit well for everyone, similar to the other films from A24. Nevertheless, it's another big win for the studio and the people who adore its projects so far. Thanks to its engaging cast, Lowery's direction and storytelling, and its technical aspects, this is one of the best-looking films I've seen this year. It also continues to showcase David Lowery as a talented and artistic filmmaker who knows how to balance the presentation with the narrative beats. I will highly recommend this one if you're into Arthurian lore and love some of the director's other works.