The battle between studios and streaming services has blurred and it is hard to know who is winning the hearts of viewers. Netflix and other streaming services have changed how production companies are developing film projects. As award season comes into full view, Netflix is releasing key films in theatres for a brief run before streaming to the world. Movies like The King and The Irishman should be in the running for various awards at the end of the year. David Michôd and Joel Edgerton’s pet project about the rise of Henry V (Timothée Chalamet) is the first of Netflix’s 2019 push to legitimise themselves to be able to produce and provide quality entertainment amongst the cinematic elites and to audiences around the globe.
Based on the actual Prince of Wales who reluctantly became King of England in 1413 after the tyrannical reign and death of his father King Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn). The young monarch desires to bring peace to England after all of the years of war during his father’s time in the throne. His reluctant rise to power came despite his brother Thomas (Dean-Charles Chapman) being promised to supersede Henry’s birthright. During a battle in Wales, his brother dies and this paves the way for Henry to ascend to the throne.
Upon his coronation, Henry attempts to amend many of his father’s wrongs and his rule moves toward a peaceful beginning. One of the traditions that come as a new king is crowned, other monarchs send gifts to show their support and to celebrate along with the nation. King Charles VI of France sends a toy ball as a gift and a means of mocking the youth of Henry. Then when Chief Justice, William Gascoigne (Sean Harris) discovers a plot by the French to assassinate King Henry, action needs to be taken against this offence. The monarch enlists his close friend and seasoned soldier, John Falstaff (Edgerton) to lead a proactive attack on their southern neighbours. The battles that ensue will determine who he could really trust and how the history books would remember this beloved monarch.
The early 1400’s were a dark time in England’s history and David Michôd manages to successfully portray the bleakness and despair. A film that lurks in the shadows and rarely allows any light to break through to relieve the depressing nature of life. Timothée Chalamet brings a brooding intensity to this character that seems to be swallowed up by the dark backdrop of this time in history. Similar to the young king wanting to prove that he can rule, the young actor seems to be showing that he has the wherewithal to carry a film. Chalamet proves that a performer does not have to be significant in stature to become larger than life on screen.
The only levity within the murkiness of this era was the brief moments that included Robert Pattinson as The French Dauphin. His character mocks and provokes King Henry during the battle on French soil and despite being the antagonist, he becomes one of the most memorable roles of the film. Not to say that the all-star cast did not add value, but most are relegated to the shadows and little support for the central figure of the tale.
This historical account provides a sombre view of the world of kings and the lonely existence for those thrust into this level of leadership. King Henry V did seem to be a man of faith and wise beyond his years, but the shifting sands of those loyal around him made it difficult to connect with any of these men. A reality that is played out in Bible accounts of David, Moses and Jesus. To find individuals that you can trust is challenging, but the value of a trusted friend and confidence is priceless.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. - John 15:13
Netflix manages to lift their game and deliver a quality film that should receive awards consideration for key figures within the cast and for those behind the camera. The King is a murky and depressing journey into the past, but a tale that captures the era. Proving that cleanliness standards may have changed, but that the heart of man is still desperately wicked and in need of the true King.
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Russ Matthews works for City Bible Forum as the Engaging Manager. He enjoys developing large public forums throughout the city to engage workers with the bigger questions of life. He oversees The Edge and Reel Dialogue.