The Green Knight won’t be for everyone
THE GREEN KNIGHT (2021)
This one was worth the (pandemic delayed) wait!
The Green Knight is a fantasy re-telling of the story of Gaiwan (Dev Patel, Skins and Slumdog Millionaire), the nephew of King Arthur, who spends his days drinking and partying. Until one Christmas morning, when threat looms upon their castle home, and a challenge set forth by the Green Knight. What follows is undoubtedly one of the most visually spectacular films of the year from director David Lowery, in a film which proves that patient story-telling can lead to an exciting conclusion, even without all of the CGI battle sequences that we see in most medieval films today.
At the helm of The Green Knight is David Lowery (director of A Ghost Story, Pete’s Dragon), bringing to life his adapted version of the screenplay. Lowery is almost renowned now as a director who has a very particular and rigid visual style. Whether it’s the crisp, tight lensed shots on display in this film, or using the 1.33:1 aspect ratio to create a certain mood in A Ghost Story, Lowery has always had visual storytelling at the forefront of his work. The Green Knight is just such a clean looking film. The 4K resolution is outstanding, mixed with incredibly well-constructed, picturesque framings of both characters and landscapes alike that feel like the deliberate stylings of Lowery. The CGI seamlessly blends in with the in-screen effects. There is not a visual moment of this film that I was not personally in awe of.
But Lowery doesn’t just succeed on a visual front, his purposeful use of longer takes and slower pace really allow you as the audience to feel immersed in this fantasy world and the story of Gaiwan, a choice I’m sure Lowery had in mind when writing this screenplay. No scene feels rushed and takes a genuine amount of time to allow characters to grow, but also allow audiences to be captivated by each frame.
The story of Gaiwan is not one I knew of before watching this film. However, the connection to the tales of King Arthur had me intrigued, even though I’m not a die-hard fan of medieval stories. Even with the film's slower pace, it takes no time to establish who Gaiwan is, and then introduce the antagonist in The Green Knight himself. The exciting opening 15 minutes of this film is enough to warrant praise for Lowery’s script, with a menacing monologue from the Green Knight and an exciting feeling once the task from him has been handed down to Gaiwan. But that’s only the beginning, and what follows is an incredibly poignant hero’s journey as we watch Gaiwan interact with fascinating characters and be placed in danger’s way throughout, leading him to grow as the story goes on.
Lowery’s script feels like it has added all of the scenes necessary to make Gaiwan’s story feel purposeful. The hero’s journey is a storytelling device that is used in almost every film ever made, but Lowery still has managed to make it feel fresh with a strong lead character, interesting side characters and building a world that is truly fascinating.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Dev Patel shines as Gaiwan, giving a performance that from an actor who has been around as long as he has, solidifies himself as one of the best we have working today. Gaiwan is a character who goes from boozy-party animal, to stoic hero within 2 hours (or a year in the movie’s time frame), and Patel confidently portrays all elements of Gaiwan in a grounded, passionate manner.
Ralph Ineson as the titular character of the Green Knight always has a brooding presence when on screen, in both physical stature and demanding tone. And as always, Alicia Vikander is a brilliant addition to any cast, really capturing the humanity of the story as Gaiwan’s love interest, Essel.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Aside from stunning cinematography, both the digital and practical effects of The Green Knight are equally impressive. The costume and design of the Green Knight himself is phenomenal, while being startling to look at. The way his face moves so freely under what would be a mountain of prosthetics adds a sense of grounded realism to an otherwise completely fantastical tale.
As would be expected, the set design of the medieval era is outstanding. The blend of CGI/in-camera work is flawless, leaving me to guess what was real and what was not on set, but never once breaking the illusion of the film. Each costume looked impeccably created, along with the designs of the mystical creatures seen along the way. The Green Knight is a genuine visual feast for the eyes in so many aspects!
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The sound design in this film is just as deliberate as the cinematography. Whether it's the bellowing sounds of the Green Knight’s voice echoing throughout the castle’s dining hall, or the hallowed, eerie silence of open plains, the mixing and sound design in this film are amazing. Even this whispers between characters feel incredibly captured.
The score from long-time collaborator of Lowery’s, Daniel Hart is ever-present in every scene, but never feels overbearing. Each track feels incredibly complimentary to the scene it is feature in and plays like it’s music written by someone who knows Lowery’s style incredibly well.
The Green Knight won’t be for everyone, it's a slow, patient story that relishes in it’s visual wonderment and cinematic divinity. But for those who yearn for a truly amazing medieval tale, this feels like a true fantasy epic that needs none of the war violence to be captivating. With an outstanding performance from Patel leading the way, this film is a must-watch and another win from A24.