Defeat the French at Agincourt? In that body? From his opening scenes as a spoilt emo princeling, whoring his way around Eastcheap, it’s hard to buy the French-American Timothée Chalamet as the legendary British king Henry V. He’s louche, uninterested in his father’s warmongering, and liable to be blown over by a strong breeze. But then that’s sort of the point.
Combining several Shakespeare plays into one opus, Joel Edgerton and David Michôd’s script perfects the arc of young Henry’s life, from his carefree adolescence to his peak as a noble warrior king, always ready to fight when his country needs him. Chalamet delivers this transformation convincingly in his best performance yet, complete with some truly rousing speeches. He grows in authority and sincerity throughout the years, rather than relying on his laidback charm.
He’s supported by a trio of complementary performances that raise this beyond a simple star vehicle. Joel Edgerton is clearly having a blast as Falstaff; Sean Harris is as slithery as ever as Henry’s chief adviser; and Robert Pattinson threatens to steal the show in a few hilarious scenes, charmingly mangling English as a second language as the Dauphin of France.
The fires of war make a man of Henry, but more importantly they ask him what kind of man he wants to be: one who searches for vain glory and the spoils of war? Or one who is compassionate and merciful?
Michôd makes that decision as hard as possible with some bruising, claustrophobic fight scenes that really understand the cheap, ugly spectacle of war – especially the often ignored realities of fighting in armour. The King could do with losing a few minutes of its runtime, and offering more complex characters beyond Henry, but this is an unexpected triumph for such an ambitious adaptation. Long live The King.
CAST: Timothée Chalamet, Lily-Rose Depp, Robert Pattinson, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, Ben Mendelsohn
DIRECTOR: David Michôd
WRITERS: Joel Edgerton, David Michôd
SYNOPSIS: Hal (Chalamet), wayward prince and heir to the English throne, is crowned King Henry V after his tyrannical father dies. Now the young king must navigate palace politics, the war his father left behind, and the emotional strings of his past life.