September 02, 2019
Timothée Chalamet makes for a slight royal alongside Robert Pattinson’s French dauphin in this bruising adaptation of Shakespeare’s history plays
The King review – rogues gallery of grunters and brawlers
‘If it rains tonight, we fight tomorrow,” declares Timothée Chalamet, huddled with his fellow actors in the final act of The King, David Michôd’s sombre, bruising adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henriad. Chalamet, the limpid star of Beautiful Boy and Call Me By Your Name, is playing Henry V. (It’s a role he inherited from Kenneth Branagh, who inherited it from Laurence Olivier – who presumably inherited it from Henry himself.) Tomorrow it’s Agincourt, a do-or-die struggle. No one wants to be the king who leads England to defeat, just as no one wants to be the lead actor whose presence derails a movie.
All the same, one watches Chalamet’s performance here with a simmering unease, willing him on but wondering if he is entirely fit for the task. The courtiers are wondering the same about Henry. Nobody, it seems, wants fey, feckless Prince Hal to ascend to the throne – least of all his own dying father – but so it comes to pass; now the archbishop is angling for an invasion of France and the nobles are plotting behind the king’s back. Henry immediately discovers that it’s lonely at the top. The only man he can trust is boozy, boorish John Falstaff, who is played with a mild case of the Brian Blesseds by Joel Edgerton, the film’s co-writer.
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