The King (2019)

Directed by David Michôd

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The King has a little more life to it than I recall many of these kinds of medieval, historical dramas having.  Maybe that’s because the Robert Pattinson character is quite amusing or because the plot of the drama here feels relatively modern (even if a bit predictable).  It’s a story about power, corruption and family.  It’s also based on a William Shakespeare play and thus not pulled straight from history.

The King is even a bit fun and is never quite as self-serious as I expected it might be.  It’s the story of King Henry V’s (Timothée Chalamet) quick and initially reluctant rise to power following the death of his father and younger brother (who was to inherit the throne before him).

Henry, or Hal, doesn’t want the throne.  He spends his nights drinking and womanizing with a loyal friend, John (Joel Edgerton) who will serve him later on, and wants only to disentangle himself and then England as well from his father’s foes.  His father’s debts, he reasons, should die with him.

And right when you think this two hour and twenty minute movie will prolong his crowning, the film starts to pick up the pace.  It’s not long before his younger brother is killed off-screen and Hal, rather than belaboring the point, just accepts the throne.  As King he is eager to bring about peace, but sudden apparent barbs and threats on his life force him to fight back.

His principal nemesis here is the ‘Dauphin of France,’ played by Pattinson, who is quite slimy in the rather showy role.  There’s something comic about many Pattinson roles in which he deliberately undermines the status of his characters brought on by his good looks.  You see it too in the recent film Damsel in which Pattinson’s character’s well-meaning actions are quickly re-contextualized to show how toxic and pathetic he is.  This character is just the latest attempt, it seems, to mess around with the persona audiences might attach to his characters before he ever steps onscreen.

And you have as well Hal’s right-hand man, William (Sean Harris), inherited from his father.  The character gives him counsel and is easy to find threatening for how he intends to shape and guide the king in his image.  It’s yet another example of how the people pulling the strings might hide in the shadows.

So the whole thing is quite entertaining, beyond the fact that it’s well made and beautiful to look at.  It’s all pretty damn electric even if parts boil down to Shakespearean melodrama, which I think is still a good thing.  It’s sincere, serious but not too serious, and you get the sense the people behind the camera have a sense of humor about all this.

Up Next: The Guard (2011), Goodfellas (1990), The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

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