Netflix & Chill #69: The King

Watched On: Netflix
Released: 2019
Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, Lily-Rose Depp, Robert Pattinson, Ben Mendelsohn
Directed By: David Michod
Rotten Tomatoes: 70% Tomatometer/85% Audience Score
Pick: Mine

I haven't really dealt with the Henrys or many of Shakespeare's monarchical/historical plays, to be honest. My first encounter with the Saint Crispin's Day speech was actually the end of Renaissance Man (deep cut, I know.) I don't think I've ever actually read any of Henry IV Part I or Henry IV Part II, so I approached this more contemporary, non-Shakespearean take on Henry V with something of an open mind as I knew the basic outlines of the story and not much else.

The King tells the story of Henry, Prince of Wales (Timothee Chalamet), who goes by Hal and who is estranged from his father, King Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn). He spends his days drinking, whoring and generally avoiding being a Prince as much as he can with his companion, John Falstaff (Joel Edgerston) a washed-up old knight who drinks a little too much. His father, dying, summons Hal to tell him that his younger brother Thomas (Dean-Charles Chapman) will be taking the throne instead of Hal and sends him off to put down the rebellion of Hotspur (Tom Glynn-Carney.) Hal, who is convinced that Thomas will be killed if he attempts to bring down the rebellion, upstages his brother and kill Hotspur in single combat. Thomas is bitter that Hal has stolen all the glory and does in a battle in Wales shortly thereafter anyway.

Henry IV dies and Hal succeeds him as King Henry V. Determined not to be like his father, he opts for peace and reconciliation despite all around him warning him that his actions risk being seen as week. The Dauphin of France sends him a ball for a coronation gift, which many see as an insult, but Hal choose to frame it as a positive reflection of his childhood. His sister Phillippa, Queen of Denmark (Thomasin McKenzie) warns that nobles in any court will have their own interests in mind and never reveal their true agendas.

After an assassin is captured, Hal, at the urging of his advised Gascoigne (Sean Harris) declares war on France and beheads two of his advises they believe have betrayed them. He appoints Falstaff as his chief military strategist insisting the Falstaff is the only one he trusts. The army sails for France and they take Harfleur and move deeper into the country, followed by the Dauphin (Robert Pattinson) who tries to provoke Hal into fighting. Eventually, with the help of Falstaff, the lure the French into a trap at Agincort and devestate. Triumphantly, the English plunge deeper into France, eventually reaching King Charles IV who surrenders and offers his daughter, Catherine (Lilly-Rose Depp) as Henry's wife. He accepts and returns to England. Waiting to celebrate, Hal goes to talk to her and she challenges his reasons for going to war telling him that they had never sent assassin nor the ball that was supposed to be so insulting.

Hal then realizes that Gascoigne had induced him to go to war and when confronted with these accuasations, Gascoigne admits it and Hal kills him and then goes back to Catherine, making her promise that she only ever speak the truth to him.

Honestly, this was a really good movie- I feel like 70%-85% range on Rotten Tomatoes is about right-when it comes to Monarchical Biopics of the last couple of years, Robert The Bruce seems to have been the flavor of the month, so it's nice to see another King getting the Netflix/silver screen treatment. Chalamet brings a certain amount of emo moodiness to Hal that evolves into steely determination to be better than his father- but underneath that, there's a ton of vulnerability in his performance as well- just an excellent performance all around. Falstaff is generally hailed as one of the great comedic characters of all time- but Joel Edgerton flips that on his head: his Falstaff is world weary and ready to drink too much to forget what he has seen and done and enjoy what pleasures he can while he can-- but he also realizes the importance of being a true and genuine friend to Hal, who isn't afraid to tell him the truth. If anyone is wasted in this movie, it's probably Robert Pattison who just gets to be excessively French and fall over in the mud and that's pretty much it.

Overall: A nice retooling of Shakespeare's 'Henriad', this is a solid and entertaining movie with some great performances- especially from Chalamet and Edgerton. My Grade: *** 1/2 out of ****

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