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  Green Knight, The It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Your Head Will Be Chopped Off
Year: 2021
Director: David Lowery
Stars: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhry, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Ralph Ineson, Barry Keoghan, Erin Kellyman, Anais Rizzo, Emilie Hetland, Anthony Morris, Helena Browne, Noelle Brown, Nita Mishra, Tara Mae, Atheena Frizzell
Genre: Historical, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: In medieval times, Gawain (Dev Patel) gave himself to debauchery around the court of his relative, King Arthur (Sean Harris), preferring to spend his days drinking and entertaining the company of prostitutes like Essel (Alicia Vikander) who is his regular choice. But as Christmas came around again, The King had a word with him about shaking himself up and doing something positive with his life, and when they had assembled around the Round Table with the knights of the realm they were suddenly interrupted by a huge figure on horseback. This was The Green Knight (Ralph Ineson), and he made the Queen (Kate Dickie) speak for him...

This green chap has a challenge for one of the company. Take up a sword and try and best him in combat, and if they succeed they will be part of a bargain that will see him attempt to return the favour one year later, exactly on next Christmas Day. Gawain, showing some gumption nobody expected of him, agrees to this but to his surprise finds the Green Knight submissively offering his neck to him, so what's a man to do? He takes Arthur's sword and chops off the visitor’s head. Whereupon the jolly green giant picks up said noggin, laughing hysterically, and rides off at some speed, leaving his attacker to ponder how he must resolve this.

With captions popping up on screen every so often, writer and director David Lowery evidently did not intend this version of the hundreds of years old poem to be an obscure experience, indeed he claimed it had been inspired by one of his childhood favourites, the decidedly non-mysterious George Lucas production Willow. However, the reaction to his efforts was overwhelmingly negative among the legions who see anything so much as slightly deviating from the norm to be slammed online at every opportunity, which was a pity for there were good points here, mainly connected to how visually striking the results were, rather than how it handled the classic text overall.

If Lowery had made a straightforward sword and sorcery yarn, we would have ended up with the underwhelming Cannon version from the eighties, itself a remake, which despite being starry was quickly bogged down and compromised. The naysayers argued the director here had done the same thing with Gawain's tale, but there were scenes here that displayed an impressive imagination, it was just that the final effect felt restrained when throughout you yearned for Lowery to throw caution to the wind and truly let loose with his wildest ideas for reinterpreting the text. As it was, his keenness to get inside Gawain's utterly non-heroic thought processes were less interesting than they would be had he been an authentic hero.

Should there be any time in cinematic history to examine the psyche of the hero, it was surely when this was released, but The Green Knight fumbled by not having the courage of the source material's convictions and rendering Gawain just another schlub, not the capable man of action who would have been more intriguing to watch challenged. This Gawain was already challenged, undercutting his journey towards his foe by having him stumble at almost every opportunity, not master of his fate, more a cork bobbing along on the tide. Therefore while there were striking images of giants, a talking fox, Vikander as Patel's physical match in two roles depending on her attractiveness and the Green Knight himself, a neat but underutilised example of makeup effects, and some bleakly beautiful Irish countryside, the sense this was the nerd's version of a hero's quest, all introspection rather than hack and slay, meant you had to be on Lowery's exacting wavelength to get the most out of it. Music by Daniel Hart.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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