MOVIE REVIEW: Does The King live up to all the hype?
Director: David Michod
Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris
Running time: 133 minutes
Verdict: An engrossing tale of power and treachery
David Michod grabbed the world's attention almost a decade ago with a lean, mean drama about loyalty and retribution, which focused on a Melbourne crime family (Animal Kingdom).
It's entirely fitting, then, that the Australian director has chosen a bloody power struggle surrounding the English throne as the subject of his mid-career opus.
Given the scale and ambition of the project, Michod has wisely enlisted the support of a master storyteller - The King is based on Shakespeare's Henriad plays.
And he has adapted that impeccable source material with long-time collaborator Joel Edgerton, who also stars in the film alongside Timothee Chalamet, a young man, who like his character, is clearly destined for even bigger things.
The camera loves the 23-year-old French-American, who was nominated for an Oscar for his breakout performance in Call Me By Your Name (2017).
Chalamet's young, callow Hal/Henry V cuts a much more boyish figure than Kenneth Branagh's 1989 screen version, and his wily battle prowess against opponents much bigger and fiercer than he is does strain credulity, on occasion.
But Chalamet's performance is more than commanding enough to demand our allegiance (and to be fair, the real Henry was only three years older than the actor when he ascended to the throne).
Edgerton makes a real meal of his supporting role - and he has the belly to prove it.
The 45-year-old actor plays Henry V's faithful lieutenant, Falstaff, as a bear of a man. Even his voice resembles a growl.
Hal and Falstaff's somewhat unlikely relationship as extreme drinking buddies takes a strange and abrupt turn when the wayward prince becomes a reluctant monarch upon the death of both his father (a grey and poxy Ben Mendelsohn) and his previously anointed brother (Dean-Charles Chapman).
Determined not to follow in his war-mongering father's footsteps, Hal attempts to unite an England that has been crippled by civil unrest with the help of his shrewd chief advisor (Sean Harris).
But the new King's peaceable inclinations cause great disquiet in the court's hawkish inner-sanctum, where Hal's conciliatory approach is simply viewed as weak.
An assassination attempt sanctioned by the French monarch, compounded by a second snub, finally goads Hal into a declaration of war.
After successfully laying siege to a coastal French castle - thanks to a constant barrage of Molotov-catapults - the English army marches inexorably towards Agincourt.
Whereupon Falstaff proves his worth - out-strategising Robert Pattinson's smug, haughty villain, the Dauphin - in a bloody, muddy battle.
After which, wiser heads prevail.
Upon his surrender, France's Charles VI (Thibault de Montalembert) proposes a union between Henry and his daughter.
One of only three female characters in the film - Catherine (Lily-Rose Depp) sees through the treacherous political machinations that have played out in her adopted court.
She puts Hal straight.
While violently blokey worlds are Michod's native forte, The King ends on an uncharacteristically optimistic note.
An engrossing historical epic, shot by Adam Arkapaw (Macbeth, Top Of The Lake) with a painterly eye, and elevated by a stellar cast.
* In selected cinemas from October 11 before launching on Netflix on November 1