The wait is finally over. No, no, not No Time To Die – although we, like a few others, are tremendously excited for Bond’s return – we are of course meaning that, after a few months of uncertainty, David Lowery’s otherworldly epic The Green Knight has arrived on UK shores. It’s been some a year or more in the offing and yet, despite delays and the slight detour onto streaming platforms in the wake of all the variables around cinema attendance, it’s finally here. Breathe slowly though kids as this perhaps isn’t the film that some believe it to be – Ridley Scott‘s similarly themed The Last Duel may fill that void next month – but, as a reminder of the power of motion pictures to excite, enthral, enlighten and entertain, it does an astounding job.
Still yet to find his place at the Round Table, King Arthur’s headstrong nephew Gawain (Dev Patel) is still looking to prove his worth. One Christmas morning, he is invited to sit with the King (Sean Harris) when a mysterious green giant (Ralph Ineson) appears. He requests a quid-pro-quo with a brave knight who dares challenge him: one strike for another. Gawain, eager to please his family – his mother (Sarita Choudhury) and his love Essel (Alicia Vikander) – accepts the challenge and strikes the Knight. The price: one year later, Gawain must travel to him for his recompense.
That wait we were talking about before with all the shenanigans involved in the UK release? All totally worth it in our book. We already knew that Lowery was a very special, unique filmmaker but while many of his films prior to this have slipped under the radar somewhat, this will cement his place amongst the best working today. If you haven’t already had the pleasure of A Ghost Story, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, The Old Man and The Gun and his soaring re-imagining of Pete’s Dragon (arguably the best Disney live-action remake so far seen), go and hunt them down immediately once you have fallen to your knees as the knights do on screen and surrendered yourself to his defining piece of work. One based – somewhat – on a 14th century poem and underrated 80s fantasy classic Willow. How apt.
Showcasing his impeccable talent for story, dialogue, thematics and visuals, Lowery has outstripped even himself with The Green Knight: playing like a beautiful poem or soliloquy, it’s a slow, deft, peerless journey through an ancient time teeming with life, love, colour and wonder that feels like a dream you never want to wake from. We’ve seen such journeys of intrepid yet weary heroes but perhaps never quite as eloquently and as uniquely as this, one that’s teeming with life and magic as it delves deep into egotism, honour, courage, fear and self-worth, all brought together by Patel‘s evocative, majestic performance as Gawain that is, too, his best work yet. Ably supported by Vikander (finally back on song), the wonderful Sarita Choudhury and, of course, Ralph Ineson as the titular Knight, there’s a cavalcade of tremendous turns here.
Normally we might finish with a sarcastic joke about kinks in the armour or something to that effect and, while there are some tiny ones (’tis but a scratch), nothing can derail The Green Knight: a monumental achievement in storytelling that’s as thoughtful as it is epic, moving as it is funny, as well as being yet another example of the power of cinema – even if the irony isn’t lost on us about where many might choose to watch it.
Fantasy, Drama | USA, 2021 | 15 | 24th September 2021 (UK Cinema & Amazon Prime Video) | EFD Films | Dir.David Lowery | Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Ralph Ineson, Joel Egerton