Review: The Green Knight

Score:  B-

Director:  David Lowery

Cast:  Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton

Running Time:  132 Minutes

Rated:  R

"Never forget what happened here."

In a deep growl, a queen reads aloud a letter just delivered by a bark-covered warrior on Christmas day. As if possessed by a demon, her words come out with a haunted-like tone. She faints as she reaches the letter's end, the paper dropping to the floor, bursting into flames.

Everything that follows lives within the vein and personality of those few minutes. A benchmark of sorts, director David Lowery almost immediately sets the tone for his epic fantasy, crafting a visual odyssey that must be seen to be fully understood. Adapted from the late 14th-century poem, The Green Knight is nothing short of ambitious; a rare marriage between the ridiculous and the inspiring.

Dev Patel is damn near perfect as aimless yet surprisingly arrogant Gawain. When we first meet the knight-to-be, he still lives with his mother and isn't quite sure about his girlfriend (a nearly unrecognizable Alicia Vikander). As luck would have it, he is also the nephew of King Arthur. When the king's Christmas celebration is interrupted by an unexpected intruder, Gawain is by his side, ready to stake his claim to the family legacy.

The intruder, the aforementioned Green Knight, wields a holly branch in one hand, a sharp ax in the other. He proposes a game, offering to allow one of the king's men to sever his head. But there is a catch. In a year's time, that same knight must seek him out at the Green Chapel and accept a reciprocating blow.

Almost without flinching, Gawain accepts the trade, seeing an opening in which to proverbially earn his seat at the table. Once the first half of the challenge is completed, and the oversized trespasser scoops up his own head, the realization of what lies ahead hits the young man who raised the sword.

An examination of trust and loyalty, Gawain never contemplates whether he will embark on the journey to the Green Chapel. Instead, the year passes quickly; amid his newfound fame, the renowned challenger celebrates with new friends and plenty of drinks, further diving into the abyss of callow antics. Highly unprepared and underqualified, his forthcoming journey won't be a simple one - his thirty seconds of valor doesn't change that.

Though an anonymous 14th-century poet wrote the source material, Lowery confidently fills in the holes to complete his narrative telling. His interpretation of medieval England is invigorating, his ability to capture the visual essence downright enchanting. The film showcases nature's true beauty as stratus clouds settle in on the green-covered forest, a body-laden battlefield appears out of nowhere, which in turn opens up to a magical castle. And one cannot forget about the fox.

Though the film's visuals more than stand on their own, they are only half of the success on display here. Patel is impressive as Gawain, welcoming the weight of such an aggressive project onto his shoulders with seeming ease. His portrayal of a young man, a bit aloof, accepting a journey of self-discovery is massive. His ability to connect and confide cannot go without mention. A foreseen hero, the man barely pulls out the distinction in the end. And it is never a forgone conclusion. But alas, he is a knight, and he is a success. And though the film ultimately proves to be lesser of its individual parts, I appreciate the effort put into it all. A masterclass in visual artistry and a representation of a creative genius, it is likely that The Green Knight is a bit too smart for most.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.