Starring: Dev Patel, Ralph Ineson, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Joel Edgerton, Alicia Vikander
Director: David Lowery
Written By: David Lowery
Runt Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
The first time I ever came across the tale of Sir Gawain was in 1984’s "Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” I was stuck at home on a rainy Sunday and was immediately pulled in by Sean Connery’s portrayal of the Green Knight. How could one not be? It may be the most glitter the man known as James Bond has ever worn on film. What lingered with me through the years is how much of presence Connery had on the film. He is not even the lead character, that is Sir Gawain, played by Miles O’Keeffe, who at best is the purest form of vanilla. With a new portrayal of Sir Gawain out now on Blu-ray, I had to see if Dev Patel was up to the challenge.
If you need to know, the tale of Sir Gawain is steeped in Arthurian Legend. Sir Gawain attempts to prove his bravery and knighthood but playing a game with the mysterious Green Knight (here played by Ralph Ineson). It’s a game where the two knights get one chance to lop each other’s heads off. One cut and nothing more. Sir Gawain gets the first opportunity but when the Green Knight’s body stands up and picks up his own head, you know that you and Sir Gawain are in for a hell of a ride. Here, in director David Lowery’s story, which he also adapted for the screen, Sir Gawain must meet the Green Knight in one year and allow him his once chance to return the beheading.
We see quickly that Dev Patel’s Sir Gawain is neither hero nor braggart about the event that transpired with the Green Knight, despite it making him famous. Still, when the year’s end approaches, he rides out to meet his opponent at the Green Chapel. The road is where our hero’s journey takes place.
What I found strange and refreshing in this tale, based on an English poem, is how fresh and new everything felt. In the past 20 years we have been so inundated with adventures of Middle Earth and Hogwarts that the tale of a simple English Knight from Arthurian times seems like a breath of fresh air wrapped in an art house film. Though not specifically set in the time of King Arthur (we have only a King and Queen played by Sean Harris and Kate Dickie), I felt refreshed as a window to a simpler time and place had opened up. I was able to actually enjoy it before mass marketing and multiple media tie-ins. It’s a story about a man on a quest to prove his worth. This time though, it was not to his King, but to himself. We see nothing about Sir Gawain’s prowess with a blade or what type of soldier he is prior to the challenge. In fact, he rightly states to his own King that he has no story to tell. As we see it unfold, he is too trusting, unaware of the world around him, and in many ways just a fool. Patel paints that character brilliantly by saying very little. He just invokes such empathy that when he does reach the end of the quest, becomes a man, and faces the Green Knight, he learns the hardest lesson of all- what it means to truly be alive.
I mentioned early on that Sean Connery was a presence in "Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”. Though his moments are fleeting and we spend far too much time with Miles O’Keeffe’s Gawain, I did notice an interesting comparison to this new story. In the original, Connery’s Green Knight lingers with you long after he leaves the scene, leaving you wanting more. Here, it is Patel’s Gawain that lingers with you after the film is over. His choice at the end of the movie is one that anyone on this journey called life must face. As an audience member I was glad to see the character make the right decision, but what I took from it personally was the greatest reward of all. In short, a fantastic film with an important message.
- Boldest of Blood and Wildest of Heart: Making The Green Knight
- Practitioners of Magic: Visual Effects
- Illuminating Technique: Title Design
- Theatrical Trailer