A lean, mean, and green portrayal of a medieval tale.
“The Green Knight” is A24’s fantasy retelling of medieval story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and stars Dev Patel as the young knight, who manages to chop off the head of the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson), who gives him a year to prepare for their final battle at the Green Chapel. And both these confrontations take place on Christmas Day.
The original tale was credited “by anonymous,” because the true author has been labeled unknown, but has been influencing over the centuries by readers and authors.
Written and directed by David Lowery, in his first entry since “The Old Man & The Gun,” gives the Arthurian story a dazzling look, first-rate performances, and a scope that resembles the mood and tone. It’s an artisan film that uses its visuals and narrative more wisely than some recent summer blockbusters. In fact, it feels like something out of the 1970s or 80s, or maybe if “The Lord of the Rings” was made as an independent film instead of a blockbuster, and it’s quite a relaxing and absorbing one.
In “The Green Knight,” after the confrontation, his uncle King Arthur (Sean Harris) sees true potential in the boy and wants greatness in him, although Gawain doesn’t feel like he deserves it. Still, both the king, Gawain’s love interest (Alicia Vikander), and his mother (Sarita Choundhury) all have faith in him. And so, on with the quest, and the one thing he craves for is honor.
Of course, what isn’t a quest without its challenges? They consist of a young scavenger (Barry Keoghan) and his band of thieves, who steal Gawain’s horse and weapons (except for the axe the Green Knight bestowed upon him), and leave him for dead. Next, he rests in the home of Winifred (Erin Kellyman from “Solo: A Star Wars Story”), who may or may not be a spirit (“What is the difference?,” she asks), and later with a kind lord (Joel Edgerton) and his wife (also played by Vikander). And his only companion is a fox, who helps him through the rain, magic mushrooms, and giant shaved women who pass by.
Certain scenes are shot a little too dark, which would be difficult for me to see at times, but mostly, I was marveled by the direction and performances. Patel, in his first role since “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” gets his knight on with the right intentions. He has the emotions and vulnerabilities to make the character gripping and deep.
The supporting work from Vikander (as both the lover and wife), Edgerton, Harris, Ineson, and Kellyman are all equally remarkable, and provide us with some memorable moments and fresh dialogue. The casting here is both ingenious and intelligent.
Every time I gazed at the Green Knight with the make-up and special effects, I was fascinated by how A24 could take their latest feature to new heights. Every time I gazed at the cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo, I was utterly amazed at how the visuals and scenes were presented. And every time I saw Patel as Gawain, I was easily impressed.
Leave it to Lowery to present the story in a different light. And speaking of light, I loved how select scenes have a greenish, bluish, or even yellowish complexions. Mostly, the green, because it’s also the color of life, and Vikander’s second character distinguishes that quite well. And the last 15 minutes of “The Green Knight” are absorbing. See for yourselves.