A solid cast, a terrific script, and a keen eye for period detail combined with a love of fantasy and a sense of humor that doesn’t go over the top all combine to make the second feature film from writer/director David Lowery one of the year’s best.
David Lowery’s “The Green Knight” is one of the best films of the year. I say this without hesitation or qualification. It’s rare that a movie is as good as it is ambitious. It’s rarer still to find a movie with this much potential to change the way we look at filmmaking. “The Green Knight” could become a rallying cry for a whole new wave of filmmakers who want to take on the difficult task of making meaningful, challenging movies about the world around us. It’s not often that a film has the power to motivate others. “The Green Knight” does.
David Lowery is a director that has come into the spotlight recently with the release of his excellent film “The Old Man and the Gun,” a story about an old prisoner and his unlikely adventures with a young FBI agent. His latest film, “The Green Knight,” is a unique tale about a knight who must battle a dragon to save a young girl.
It is one of the most satisfying feelings when you are watching a film and it dawns on you that you’re watching something great. For a specific type of viewer, David Lowery’s latest film The Green Knight will provide that experience. Lowery has crafted a beautiful, enigmatic, challenging, profound, and haunting vision that brings to life a 14th-century poem and stars (an almost unreasonably hot) Dev Patel as Sir Gawain in a truly incredible lead performance. These ingredients add up to the best film so far in 2023.
The Green Knight follows Sir Gawain (Patel), King Arthur’s rash and impetuous nephew (Sean Harris). On Christmas Day, the eponymous Green Knight (a scene-stealing Ralph Ineson with one of the best character designs I’ve seen in a long time) enters the kingdom and challenges whomever accepts to strike a blow against him and then go to find him in a year for him to return the blow. Gawain accepts the challenge and slashes the Green Knight’s head off, only to be disappointed when the legendary beast rises. Gawain sets off on a mission to locate the Green Knight a year later.
The first thing you’ll notice about this film is how aesthetically stunning it is throughout its whole duration. There are certain visuals in this film that are among the most beautiful I’ve seen on screen all year; seeing it in a theater environment is magnificent in every sense of the term. In addition to Andrew Droz Palermo’s beautiful photography, the film has some of the finest costume and production design I’ve seen this year, and I doubt I’ll see finer instances of both in the months ahead. All of this is to say that The Green Knight is a technological wonder, and it’s a joy to see such craftsmanship in each and every frame.
Lowery has also reteamed with Daniel Hart, who composed the music for A Ghost Story and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, among other projects. The music also contributes to the mesmerizing atmosphere and, when combined with the images, greatly improves vision. It maintains an unearthly tone that is both constant and necessary in reminding us that this is a retelling of a tale from ancient civilizations.
I thought the performances were fantastic as well. This is without a doubt Dev Patel’s finest performance (which is saying a lot since he is usually excellent), in which he renders Gawain charming, imperfect, empathetic, heroic, and vulnerable all in the same moment. Alicia Vikander delivers a strong performance as well (well, technically two very good performances). In their own way, both performances manage to seem totally distinct and intriguing. I’ve previously mentioned Ralph Ineson’s performance as The Green Knight. When he emerges, he is really frightening and dominates the screen. Granted, he isn’t on screen for too long, but his moments are the ones that I keep replaying in my head.
On a conceptual and character level, though, what makes The Green Knight such a great picture is how constantly thought-provoking and difficult it is. In the same way that many great films of its genre do, the way the film explores issues like choice, destiny, honor, death, and power seems to demand debate. This is a film that I know will stay with me for a long time because of the complex issues it raises and what they imply on an existential level.
Without giving anything away, I must applaud the film’s excellent conclusion. The last fifteen minutes of the film confirms all of my previous praises; it really hits you in the stomach as it builds to a crescendo. It’s not often that you feel fully rewarded for giving a film your whole attention, but the more I think about The Green Knight’s conclusion, the more amazing, difficult, and deep it becomes.
Lowery confronted the inexorable force of time and the individual’s limited life amid its vast expanse in A Ghost Story, but The Green Knight seems to be a cautionary story about decision, repercussions, and destiny. Both films are emotional and compelling in ways that few films are able to accomplish, dealing with themes and ideas much larger than the people at their core.
Finally, The Green Knight solidifies David Lowery’s reputation as a genuinely diverse and fascinating filmmaker. Films like this don’t come around very often, and it’s a tremendous experience to be reminded of what it’s like to sit in a theater and see a film that completely enthralls you. What a picture, as fictitious character Marvin Schwarz puts it.
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Two-thirds of the way through The Green Knight, I realized it’s going to be impossible to single out a single element that makes it fantastic. Instead of doing that, I’ll just say everything. It’s not just that the film is expertly directed and acutely acted, nor that it feels like a wholly original work of art, nor that it has a gorgeous musical score that perfectly captures the tone of the film. Nor is it that it will only play twelve more times this year before it makes its way to home video. It’s all of that, plus a whole lot more.. Read more about the green knight release date australia and let us know what you think.
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