The film starts off strong. Michod sets the stage and introduces the characters well. Any viewer will get a good indication of the kind of person our main protagonist, Prince Henry, is. Early in the film, his father disinherits him in favor of his younger brother, Thomas. Michod does not explore the reasons behind the estrangement between Henry and his father; viewers are left to speculate that the Prince and his father are very different people, with the militarily skilled prince given to partying rather than fighting, and the King given to bickering needlessly with his vassals.
Helpfully for the plot, Thomas is killed during a skirmish with the King’s vassals and Henry becomes the next king. And with that, comes a new ruler…with a new way of thinking. Henry isn’t interested in asserting dominance over his vassals or warring with France, a view the does not make him popular with his power-hungry councilors. When his councilors suddenly report that the Crown Prince of France has unexpectedly launched and attack on English troops, the new King a dilemma…try and create peace with the hostile France, or risk war with the superpower.
Without a doubt this movie excels in its characters and the acting, especially the main role of King Henry played by Timothee Chalamet. Chalamet plays the boy-king Henry as a serious figure, old before his time. This take contrasts perfectly with Robert Pattinson’s Crown Prince of France. Pattinson clearly had the most fun of anyone in the film- his character is over-the-top flamboyant and almost ridiculously sinister.
The cinematography in the film is also wonderful. The climax: an exciting final version of the Battle of Agincourt will capture the imagination of any viewer. The interesting camera work during the battle sequences combined with a beautiful soundtrack elevate the film and help viewers sink into the atmosphere that the film wants to generate.
All this isn’t to say the movie is flawless…the dialogue drags in some places and the film lacks backstory where it is surely needed. The lack of information on who some characters are or how they relate to one another can make the film confusing in parts and boring in others. When you don’t know what’s happening- its difficult to pay attention. Michod seems hyper aware that this is the third major adaption of Henry V; the prior versions were extremely faithful renditions of Shakespere’s play. Michod clearly wanted to “update” the script and create realism. This impulse is not always to the benefit of the characters or the story.
In the end, The King is definitely an interesting film that is ultimately an enjoyable film going experience. It surely appeals to Shakespeare fans, classic renaissance-era genre fans, regular old Netflix viewers. I would recommend this film to anyone looking for entertainment during the last weeks of quarantine. Be sure to check out David Michod’s The King on Netflix.