The Green Knight (2021) Review



The Green Knight is told in an unusual way, which is sure to turn off some people; if you give it a chance, though, you’ll find a hidden gem with a powerhouse performance by Dev Patel.

Plot: Gawain (Dev Patel) embarks on a quest to confront the Green Knight after encountering the creature in King Arthur’s court on Christmas Day.

Review: Before walking in, I have never heard of The Green Knight, the epic poem, or really knew much about the character of Gawain; I knew he was a knight in King Arthur’s court, but that’s about it. I never watched Sword of the Valiant (though it sounds like a riot with Sir Sean Connery as the Green Knight), so I was pretty unprepared for what was going to unfold before me.

I was also unfamiliar with the director, David Lowery. I know who directed the remake of Pete’s Dragon (I never saw the original, so had no interest in the sequel). He will also adapt the Peter Pan legend again to live-action – again, I’ve always preferred the animated Disney film, so I doubt I will get off my couch to run out to see this version.

That all being said, The Green Knight is a very interesting, somewhat bizarre tale. You’re going to either be intrigued by it or think it’s utter nonsense; there’s not going to be any other viewpoint. The story is told in a somewhat linear fashion, but there are so many weird characters and fantastical situations, if you think this is going to be a grounded, realistic film, this is not it. This is an art film and told in a distinct way that separates it from the pack of generic films littering multiplexes; however, that same storytelling manner has split audiences and led it to be a box office failure.

The acting is terrific, led by the always-terrific Dev Patel. His Gawain is a somewhat broken, imperfect character, and it’s that same imperfection that makes him so interesting – he often does the right thing, but after instinctually doing the opposite. Alicia Vikander is stellar in dual roles of a lady and a prostitute; Joel Edgerton is barely recognizable as Vikander’s husband in her lady role.  It was also great seeing Sean Harris in a non-villainous part (I’ve only seen him in the last two Mission: Impossible movies) as King Arthur.

The cinematography in the film is breathtaking. You get a real scope of the landscape in the picture, and there’s one scene, in particular, that is almost ethereal. I loved the camerawork when Gawain was just starting out in his journey, and I especially liked the little touch of the skeleton and the cage at the crossroads – there’s a whole story behind that I don’t think too many people know, and it’s awesome that they threw it in there.

If I have one complaint about The Green Knight, it’s the use of CGI. There’s a couple of scenes, one with a talking decapitated head and another with a talking fox (I told you it was weird), that just did not look convincing to me. I applaud the director’s vision to add fantasy elements to this story, but these are two cases where I wish they had been better realized, especially considering that I don’t believe either scene significantly adds to the story.

This is a minor gripe, though, and overall, I think this was a well-crafted film.  This is the sort of movie where you’ll debate for an hour about what this particular detail or scene means. Definite themes are running throughout, and rather than just tell you what they are, I’m going to let you discover them on your own. If you give this movie a chance, I think you’ll either find it to be a real treat or another example of a self-important filmmaker ruining a perfectly decent story. You can include me in the former group.