Jason Lee’s review published on Letterboxd:
“The Green Knight” Gives us a New Medieval Classic of the Ages
A24 is known for giving us a lot of exceptional films of varying genres. This film itself definitely looked like one of A24’s weirdest releases in a while, and that’s really saying a lot. The medieval fantasy genre is one that isn’t one of my favorites, but I can appreciate it still. Hell, I’ve never been the biggest King Arthur guy, though this film feels like an unofficial spin-off of him in that sense. It’s also interesting because director, writer, editor, and producer David Lowery also directed and wrote A24’s “A Ghost Story,” a film which I found massively overrated. How was his newest release? Based on the 14th-century poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” “The Green Knight” stars Dev Patel as Gawain, a nephew of King Arthur, who sets out on a journey to confront the Green Knight in a test of courage.
The performances are all great, but Dev Patel definitely stands out as the lead Gawain. Reluctant, awkward, yet easy to root for, Patel brings a very grounded performance that symbolizes how inexperienced yet mature he is in this medieval world and era. Thus, Patel plays the familiar underdog trope here, but he brings a sense of distinction to it that makes it more unique than other iterations. Constantly self-deprecating or down on himself, Patel brings a sense of believability to Gawain’s personality and how he may handle or comprehend certain things. Patel isn’t that badass knight that’s in most of these films, rather a humbled and insecure fighter thus far. Patel portrays the character’s development super well, showcasing how he changes throughout the journey. Alicia Vikander also does great as Essel and the Lady, though just like the other characters, she’s not nearly as memorable when you got a great lead like Gawain.
To call this film bizarre would be a massive understatement, but it’s bizarre in the best ways possible. David Lowery truly is a visionary here, as his direction brings the wide and epic scope of this era to life here in an authentic and visually pleasing aesthetic. The world feels super real in how it resembles the medieval times, with the amazing production values, sets, costumes, and makeup really contributing to that. It’s a victory enough to have a beautiful world and worldbuilding, but Lowery’s magnificent direction really captures it all in a stellar manner. Specifically, Lowery’s cinematography captures a lot of beautiful shots of varying degrees, such as close-ups or the kinetic fast-moving ones. The cinematography is essentially a painting as it captures the overall flow of the world’s journey and its view. In a sense, it reminded me a little of Denis Villenueve’s famous camerawork, as it overall encapsulated the epic scale of the stories and the worlds they reside in, utilizing fantastic lighting and very natural and smooth-moving cinematography that makes effective uses of pans and wide shots. It’s a very beautiful looking film, and it proves that Lowery was the perfect choice for director. The visual effects are also nothing short of stunning, and the pacing actually isn’t terrible, as it didn’t go by unbearably slow for its runtime. The film very much does feel like a medieval period piece, feeling natural and non-pretentious in how it settles in that structure. As for the storyline itself, it’s great. The storytelling does an effective job at establishing Gawain’s character and why his journey is so important. Thus, he goes on one hell of an arc here, and the Green Knight himself is a very beautifully scary and imposing presence here, with his design being top-tier. As I said, some of the characters including King Arthur himself aren’t as interesting as Gawain, which is a little disappointing given how important they would have contributed to his upbringing. And I’ll admit it, but there was one particular sequence towards the end that felt a little unnecessary before a pivotal moment. If anything, the scene should’ve been a few glimpses or minutes, but it was rather a dragged out sequence that didn’t even add much to the canon of the story. I’m being as vague as possible, so forgive me for that.
This was no doubt an amazing film, and it really proves as a strong case for David Lowery’s directing style and Dev Patel’s acting ability. This’ll definitely go down as one of the best films of 2021, and it solidifies how much great content A24 will continue to bring us with their independent films. Definitely go check this out if you want something trippy. I know it was definitely pretty trippy for me.
-Dev Patel does an amazing job, with the rest of the cast also doing great
-Great storytelling brings a satisfying arc
-Amazing direction and mindblowing cinematography
-Beautiful world is brought to life through the production values, sets, costumes, lighting, makeup, and visual effects
-The Green Knight himself is great
-Pacing isn’t bad
-Supporting characters aren’t very interesting
-Certain stretched sequence towards the end