The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/Amazon Prime Video] - THE GREEN KNIGHT | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/Amazon Prime Video] - THE GREEN KNIGHT

the green knight review
A feckless knight sets out to prove himself on a potentially fatal quest.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: David Lowery

Starring: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Ralph Ineson, Joel Edgerton, Barry Keoghan, Erin Kellyman, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie

the green knight poster

Filmmaker David Lowery is known for films that lean heavily on Americana. Ain't Them Bodies Saints and The Old Man & the Gun both deconstruct that most revered of American figures, the outlaw. He delivered a surprisingly folksy live action remake of Disney's Pete's Dragon. Now he turns his attention to the folklore of England with The Green Knight, based on the 14th century poem 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'.

Dev Patel plays Gawain as the sort of feckless teen who throws a strop when his Mom asks him to leave the bins out. We meet him first as he wakes in a brothel on Christmas Day, before returning home to Camelot for the holy day's feast. The dinner is interrupted when a hulking, green-skinned knight (Ralph Ineson, continuing his career revival as unlikely US indie darling) enters the room and asks for indulgence in a "Christmas game." Said game allows anyone to strike the Green Knight a blow, which will be reciprocated one year hence. Gawain steps up to the plate and, thinking he's clever, lops off the knight's head. To his horror, the knight picks up his noggin and walks off.

the green knight review

Cut to a year later and it's time for Gawain to set off to receive what he fears will be a fatal blow from the Green Knight's axe. Or will fate somehow save him, as it did the Green Knight?

If The Green Knight feels like a movie you've seen many times before, that's because the source text has inspired countless tales of unlikely heroes setting off on quests to redeem themselves. Where Lowery's film gives us a twist on this idea is in Gawain being quite happy not to leave behind a legacy if it means he gets to keep his head. He has as much in common with Woody Allen's character in Love and Death as with Luke Skywalker.

the green knight review

Many European filmmakers have indulged their affections for the sweeping plains of America, so it's refreshing to see the reverse in action here. Lowery is clearly as in love with the lore of Merry Olde England as Leone was with the tales of the Old West.

Gawain's journey to his uncertain destiny brings him into contact with various figures. There's a highway thief (Barry Keoghan) straight out of Barry Lyndon; the talking fox from Lars von Trier's Antichrist; the spirit of Saint Winifred, who lightens the mood with her insistence that she's been beheaded, despite her head appearing to be firmly on her shoulders; and a Lord (Joel Edgerton) and Lady (Alicia Vikander) who seem to have inspired the swinging couple from Doug Liman's Go.

the green knight review

In between trying to seduce Gawain, Vikander's enigmatic lady delivers a speech querying why the Knight's green visage should prove so troubling. Green is the colour of nature, she points out. But maybe that's what humans fear, that when we're gone, the earth will return green. Her speech made me think about how the Coca Cola company swapped Santa Claus's green robes for the red we know today.

The Green Knight has been described as "challenging" by some, but it's only a challenge if you care about figuring out "what it all means." It's beautifully crafted and in no rush to get to the end of its journey, but it's essentially a craft beer Krull. I don't think Lowery would take that as a slight against his film, as he's made a film that betrays the influence of the early 1980s fad for fantasy and folklore.

The Green Knight
 is in UK/ROI cinemas and on Amazon Prime Video now.

2021 movie reviews