Are you a fan of the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table? This period piece immerses you in the fog and frightful existence of Middle Ages England. While Arthur and Guinevere are referred to in the credits simply as King and Queen, the unmistakable Round Table sets the stage for their mostly silent oversight of the damp and dark court where some of the action takes place.
This is Camelot as you’ve never imagined it. Enter the Green Knight, a green-skinned, green-haired Groot type who rides a green horse right up to the Round Table and challenges any taker to a deadly game on Christmas Day. One caveat: any injury delivered to the Green Knight in hand-to-hand combat will be returned in kind exactly one year later. Most Knights take one step back at this point and leave it to a newbie, the king’s nephew. Without delving too far into legend, Morgana, Arthur’s half-sister is mostly off screen as some sort of evil enchantress, acting on behalf of her son as he begins his quest to become the knight, Sir Gawain.
The pace of the film is slow, the costuming reminiscent of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but utterly lacking humor. The Chaucerian feel of the journey, or perhaps more rooted in poetry like Homer’s Odyssey, leaves you wanting to shower by the end of the film. They were very dirty times, and Director/Writer David Lowery brought them to life nicely, with ghosts, giants, thieves and witches lurking in the woods and hills along Gawain’s (Dev Patel) quest. As with other Knights, honor is tested along with valor, and the quest eventually is complete, but at what cost?
This is Patel’s first film since The Personal History of David Copperfield. His performance is solid, but more serious in this outing. Alicia Vikander, known for Ex Machina, is Gawain’s girlfriend and temptress, a dual role that has her playing both Essel and The Lady. Sean Harris, known for his roles as a recurring antagonist in the Mission Impossible franchise is an aging Arthur, somewhat lost in the fog, and struggling to remain larger than life. His soft-spoken honor shines through and provides a vector for the story line.
This movie has an art house feel, but leaves you with lingering thoughts back to the characters and the quest. It also makes you want to learn more.
The Green Night (2021) runs 2 hours, 10 minutes and is rated R.