Monday, 30 August 2021

The Green Knight (Movie Review)


Filmmaking in my opinion is all about stimulating the senses. Whether this is through a well-executed action scene like the ones we get in a typical summer blockbuster, or through stories that capture the imagination in other less visceral ways. And every now and then, we get a film that take either of those two things one step further, elevating the medium into the realm of fine art. Films like Mad Max: Fury Road and Blade Runner 2049 immediately come to mind, wherein the filmmaker's singular vision is on full display for all to see. The Green Knight is just the latest example.

Directed by David Lowery, the film is based on the 14th-century poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In this particular adaptation, Dev Patel plays Gawain, nephew to a battle-weary King (Sean Harris) who is challenged to a game by the eponymous Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) one Christmas morning. With nothing to lose and plenty to prove, Gawain accepts the challenge. But as he'll quickly come to find out, the knight's game is a lot more devious than he'd anticipated. Now he is bound to an oath that would have him journeying across the country to fulfill it.

I concede that I am a little bit late to the party with my review of The Green Knight, but that was mainly due to the fact that the film did not receive a theatrical release over here in Nigeria. Apparently, we have a low tolerance for so-called art films, as they tend to require a greater commitment from the viewer, who more often than not just wants something simple to serve as some mild escapism. Which is fine, and every film has its purpose and target audience. 

But all that is to say that I didn't get to see the movie the way it was meant to be seen, sprawled across a massive theater screen. And believe me when I say if ever there was a film that deserves the premium large format treatment, it is this one. The film is easily one of the most visually-striking I have seen this year, with cinematography that all but seems like a shoo-in at next year's Oscars. Every single shot is meticulously framed, and every single scene is tightly edited, which is saying something considering the film's deliberate pacing.

Speaking of pacing, the story follows the same general beats as its source material, with a few minor deviations to keep the film feeling fresh. But this is where the film itself might lose most viewers, because the director never shies away from letting the camera linger on his subjects, or from scenes that stretch on much longer than most viewers are accustomed to. In spite of all that though, none of those scenes felt inconsequential, or truly overstayed their welcome, not when they were filled with so much detail to parse and take in.

The closest thing I can liken it to is staring at a beautiful painting. Beneath every brush stroke lie layers of meaning and expression. And the movie is certainly filled with hidden depths, much like the poem it is based upon. It is a coming-of-age story that is less concerned with adventure than it is understanding what drives a young man in pursuit of honor and glory. Dev Patel helps to bring that young man to life, in what is arguably his most accomplished performance to date. And he is helped by one of the best ensembles on this side of the round table.

The Green Knight is not an easy movie to sit through, no doubt. The film meanders in the way that most slow-burn art films tend to do. The fact that it leaves its ending and overall narrative open to interpretation also might turn casual viewers off. But if you are willing to indulge in the director's striking vision and unique take on the classic Arthurian legend, then you'll find yourself lost in its vast canvas of rich textures and beautiful imagery.

2 comments:

  1. Not sure it came to our area either. I definitely want to see it! The visuals are stunning.

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    1. It's out now on Premium VOD. Totally worth checking out.

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