The prince of modern cinema wears a king’s crown

Uncover a review of Timothee Chalamet’s Netflix Original, “The King”

This review includes spoilers. 

The internal conflict of a leader, the value of human innocence and the spilled blood of past friendships; Netflix’s original film “The King,” released on Nov. 1 of last year, encapsulates numerous details of a royal’s life-long battle with morality and treachery. The period drama begins with Prince Henry V living a simple life outside the kingdom’s walls, away from his father’s warmongering and blood-boiling intent to reign over more land. The fresh take on Shakespeare’s classic story of Henry V is given a new light thanks to director David Michôd, a pitch-perfect cast and wonderful cinematography from Adam Arkapaw. Though it doesn’t “speak” Shakespeare in regards to the mood, the dialogue is firmly rooted in Shakespearean origin. A favorite quote of mine from the film is “I welcome your umbrage!”, which nurtures the dialect of the 15th century. 

The cast is perfect due to producers picking an ideal actor (who happens to be a favorite of mine) for the main character, Henry V. He is played by Timothée Chalamet, a popular actor from films like “Interstellar,” “Call Me by Your Name,” “Beautiful Boy,” “Little Women” and so much more. A citizen of both France and America, Chalamet’s character as Henry V (or otherwise known as “Prince Hal”) is presented highly with his natural French tones when in contact with his French enemies; Hal creates a perfect entity of a cultured royal talking with those that either despise him or love him.  

Before he became King, Hal’s father grew ill and originally presented to his second son, Thomas (Dean-Charles Chapman), as next in line in regards to a potential attack. Hal, in his father’s eyes, was seen as a drunken aloof of a son, who had no desire for the crown and wanted to live amongst the kingdom’s people. Immediately after, Thomas is dictated by his father to go into war with their treasonous cousin, King Richard. Though, with two full armies ready to fire amongst an empty field, Thomas is untimely stopped in his tracks by his own big brother, Hal. After a moment of despair is locked between the two, Hal demanded that King Richard fight in replacement of his own army so there may no more bloodshed. After a thrilling fight that included both fists and swords, Hal kills King Richard II with his last stroke of energy. From then on, the army and the people he rules look up to Hal as their king, while Thomas is taken off the throne. 

Ever since that bloody moment, the film continued to defy an audience’s expectation and offered the thrills of a true, dirty battle. Henry V is undoubtedly known as one of the greatest warrior kings, and has been consistently immortalized in Shakespeare plays. Throughout the film, what goes unnoticed is the visual metaphor of war and imperialism, and its underlying real impact on not just the people, but the one who holds the crown (and ultimately, the morally-defining decisions). Throughout Hal’s and Richard’s fight, the quiet rising tempo moves along the stretching strength seen in each of the characters. Regarding that, the mise en scène-focused decision brought truth to the short, yet longating battle, considering the scene was quiet, yet thrilling all at once. A move as such is difficult to play into film without being reflected as tedious, but “The King” works with the act well.

Besides that fight, the Battle of Agincourt, which is against The Dauphin, had mayhem choreographed to even the smallest detail. As far as historical war epics go in the film industry, “The King”  is one of Netflix’s biggest. Hal and his men hacked his way through the mud and tears which goes unnoticed that it looks like one continuous shot — which is how war films should be presumed to be filmed as, a visual metaphor of uninterrupted pain. The film balances its blood and guts with a post-war reckoning when Hal is forced to face difficult questions that any ruler should make. Though this time around, he is reminded of his morality and royal status when a couple questions come to mind: who benefits from the slaughter, who gets left to die and will it be himself? Hal showcases himself as one of his own army men, which was presented in the beginning of the film when he and his cousin fought. In this regard, he is quite literally places himself at the bottom of the bottom; men from both sides fight atop of the muddy dead, and close-to-death bodies like Hal who from the beginning, treats himself likewise to the man in front of him (or honestly, on top of him).

From beginning to end, the mise en scène and cinematography of “The King” is never interrupted or questioned when each scene folds into the next. The color grading really adds to the storyline and the history behind the film; the blue, gray-ish atmosphere the film encapsulates how the emotional battles and notions for more land control took over the European continent. The cinematography on the other hand, by Arkapaw, is extraordinary. Some of what he creates gets lost on the screen of one’s TV — from the misty shadows and dim lighting within Hal and Falstaff’s favorite tavern, to the harsh lighting of the throne room on a clear day. Everything Arkapaw makes allows the audience to see the most beautiful truth in what the film is trying to portray, whether it’s at twilight, at sunrise and in the dead of night, he adapts the mood with the atmosphere.

If you have the time during midterms frantically happening, I highly encourage anyone to see the sought after film “The King” Netflix Originals has created.

~Ashley McMillan, A&E Editor~

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