Timothée Chalamet continues to be on the rise ever since his knockout performance in 2017’s “Call Me By Your Name,” scoring another role in Netflix’s Henry V biopic “The King.” While Chalamet proved he was a gifted talent two years ago, he seems to have left all of his skills in the past, for his portrayal of the King of England is absolutely static.
“The King” — directed and co-written by David Michôd — is a film with absolutely nothing going for it. In what should have been a gripping insight into one of England’s most legendary and important kings, we instead get a dull portrayal without the slightest touch of a beating heart.
The film follows Henry V as he becomes king after the death of his father. Henry is a distant young man, never engaging in the current politics of the time. His ascension to the throne arises during the Hundred Years’ War against France – his biggest rival in the film being The Dauphin of France, played awkwardly by Robert Pattinson.
For an actor fresh off an astonishing explosion of a performance in “The Lighthouse,” Pattinson gives a noticeably bad portrayal of the frenchman. The actor never seems comfortable or confident in his abilities, forcing out an odd French accent. Chalamet also struggles with his British accent, his American intonation finding its way to the surface throughout most of the film.
Neither Chalamet or Michôd ever allow the audience to connect with Henry V’s tremendous struggle or adjustment. Depicting a young man becoming a remarkably important person in such a brief amount of time is never studied carefully enough for us to empathize for the King or his burdens. The lack of family drama or interpersonal struggles is consistently avoided, making it near impossible to identify with this historical character.
Michôd and co-writer Joel Edgerton, who also has a supporting role in the film, forget the fact that we’re supposed to be watching a human drama and not a chapter from a history textbook. Not a single emotion is fused into this script, nor do any of the actors succeed in making us care about their characters.
Dull and boring, “The King” gives us nothing to look at that we haven't already seen before. With an underdone production, we’re very aware that we’re watching images from a film set and are never transported to a realistic 15th century England. Michôd never impresses us with anything visually striking, instead bores us with the same simplistic style and tone from start to finish.
Towards the end, we get an anti-climatic battle that plays out slowly when it should be a kinetic climax. Trying to copy shots from the “Game of Thrones” episode “Battle of the Bastards,” this is a battle with as much intensity as a “Downton Abbey” episode. To say the least, this is one of the most unimpressive battle scenes in recent memory.
You can get the same reaction from watching ”The King” as you would from reading a history book. The pervasive lack of emotional depth and absence of conflict make this one of the most forgettable films of 2019 and one that Chalamet will never be remembered for if he continues to succeed in his acting career.
Sadly, this is a film that could have worked if done properly. Medieval European history is a fascinating subject and several films such as “Braveheart” or even last year’s “Outlaw King” have handled similar stories properly.
Timothée Chalamet may have excited us in the past few years, yet the actor seems to lack any charisma or screen-presence as a performer. Films like “The King” prove how overrated he is as an actor in addition to reiterating how most biopics fall down the same route of providing enough context yet not enough spirit.
Final Grade: C-
Dominic LeRose is a writer for The Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.