Written and directed by David Lowery, The Green Knight is a medieval fantasy adventure movie which is new to the UK this week. Based on the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the movie stars Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, and Ralph Ineson, and follows the tale of King Arthur’s nephew, Gawain, and his encounter with a mysterious and mythical knight.
In the movie, Gawain is celebrating Christmas Day with King Arthur when a strange creature arrives at Camelot. Addressing Arthur’s court, the creature – known only as the Green Knight – sets out a challenge to Arthur, telling him that whichever knight can land a blow on his body will be given his axe.
But the challenge is not-so straight forward. Whoever wins the axe must travel to the Green Chapel the following year, to receive an equal blow from the Knight.
Gawain accepts the challenge and swinging Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, cuts off the Green Knight’s head, winning the axe in what appears to be a death blow. But the blow does not kill the Green Knight, and after picking up his own decapitated head, he reminds Gawain of the deal that will ensure they meet again.
Almost a year passes, with many people retelling the story of Gawain’s encounter with the Green Knight, but while Gawain’s status as a champion continues to rise, so too does his anxiety levels. He knows that before the arrival of the next Christmas, he must face the Green Knight a second time, and it is something he has come to dread.
But realising he must fulfil his end of the deal, and encouraged by Arthur, Gawain sets out on a journey to the Green Chapel. He is unsure what lies ahead, but knows he will be unable to truly rest until he has completed the challenge, and stood face-to-face with the Green Knight.
If you live in the US, then you will already be familiar with The Green Knight as it opened in cinemas in the States back in July. The movie was supposed to open in the UK at the same time, but due to issues surrounding the Covid-19 Delta variant, the movie was pulled from cinema schedules at the last minute.
That eleventh hour cancellation has meant us Brits have had to wait an extra couple of months to see The Green Knight. However, thanks to that delay the movie now arrives over here with two viewing options, rather than one.
From Friday 24th September, The Green Knight is not only playing in select UK cinemas, it will also be available to stream via Amazon Prime Video. So, whether you want to watch the movie on the big screen, or you want to view it from the comfort of your own sofa, the choice is yours!
If you are a medieval folklore fan, The Green Knight is most certainly a film you will want to see. This movie delves deep into the story Gawain, Arthur, and the Green Knight, is filled with luscious visuals and stunning scenery, and is sure to scratch that itch you have for all things fantastical.
However, if you are not heavily invested in this particular genre of movie, then you may want to approach with caution. The Green Knight is a beautifully realised picture, of this I am in no doubt, but it is a slow burning tale, and won’t be for everyone.
It’s important for me to address this here, because I am about to gush about how truly wonderful this movie looks, but I don’t want to give the wrong impression. There will be audiences who adore this film, and will praise it in droves, while others will find it a little too slow and pretentious, and I think both viewpoints are perfectly valid.
I see both sides of the argument, and will admit that while this movie is stunning to look at, at times it moves too slowly. The ending may also prove frustrating to some, and this will leave a fair few people feeling cold.
The Green Knight will be a divisive picture. Those who love it will champion it at every opportunity, while those who hate it will no doubt switch off before the end.
I can’t say I loved it, because I didn’t find the story as engaging as I might have hoped, however, I found plenty to like in the movie. It certainly gets praise from me, especially in the visuals department.
The Green Knight is gorgeous to look at. The film is incredibly atmospheric, utilises a sumptuous colour palette, and knows exactly how to put fantasy on the screen.
A highlight for me is a scene in which Gawain encounters a tribe of giants. The scene is brief, and fairly non-eventful, but the whole sequence has a certain aethereal quality to it which I found mesmerising.
From the costumes to the scenery, and from the visual effects through to the locations, everything about this movie looks good. Every inch of the screen has been carefully considered to ensure that this film not only delivers for today’s audience, but also for future audiences too.
Writer/director David Lowery has clearly immersed himself in this world and the end result is a movie which I believe many academics will come back to in the years that follow. I see this as a film which will be highlighted in various discussions about medieval fantasy, with references made to the beautiful shots and rich production design.
I can’t emphasis this enough, the film looks like a piece of art.
Outside of the aesthetic, The Green Knight benefits from a strong cast, led by Dev Patel. The actor is excellent in the role of Gawain, and manages to embody someone who can be courageous yet cautious, and at times both fearful and fearless.
The other standout star is Ralph Ineson who takes on the titular role of the Green Knight. Although the actor is hidden under various special effects, he brings a sinister yet intriguing edge to his performance, and it works perfectly for the movie.
There isn’t a bad cast member amongst the ensemble. This cast, along with the wonderful visuals, as well as good sound and strong lighting, really make this movie what it is.
So, for me, there are multiple aspects of The Green Knight which are great. But I believe it falls short and that is because the story just isn’t quite there.
By the end of the movie, I found plenty to praise, but I have to admit it did feel a little empty. The story needed a bit more oomph, and I came away feeling as if I had watched a picture that was all very superficial.
In short: I needed more. I needed the story to grab me in the way that everything else did.
The Green Knight will find a loyal, dedicated audience, and it most certainly has ‘cult film’ written all over it, but I don’t believe general audiences will connect with it in the same way. I connected with a significant amount of it, but it was never quite enough for me to fall in love with it.
Ultimately, this is a movie that many should watch, but not everyone will adore. The Green Knight is intriguing and expertly put together, but it just misses the mark and this stops it from achieving true greatness.