It’s only a matter of time before Timothée Chalamet becomes one of Hollywood’s biggest leading men. He’s so far taken mostly supporting roles, and has knocked them out of the park. He was a lead in Call Me By Your Name, but he had seasoned actor Armie Hammer to play off of. And last year’s Beautiful Boy was another showcase chance for the budding star. But as great as he was, that was really Steve Carell’s movie.
From Director David Michôd, The King sees Chalamet starring as young King Henry V of England. While the movie features a strong supporting cast, this is Chalamet’s biggest opportunity yet to fully command a film. And to that end, The King can be considered a success.
Henry, or Hal as he prefers to be called, is a reluctant king. He has distanced himself from his family, as he doesn’t support his father’s war efforts, though he’s a fairly gifted fighter himself. Hal seems to be spared from from the life he doesn’t want, as King Henry IV decides that the crown will pass to his younger brother Thomas instead.
But when Thomas dies in battle, Hal’s father has no choice but to name Hal the successor to the crown. And with Henry IV in poor health, that succession comes quicker than Hal would have liked. Hal must now learn to balance his pacifist leanings while leading a country in the midst of war.
And this is where Chalamet shines. The King gives him the chance to dive deep into these conflicting ideologies, and demonstrate how hard it is to navigate between the two. In smaller, more intimate settings, Chalamet’s Hal is calm and measured, maybe even mild-mannered. But when on the battlefield leading his men, he can call upon his charisma and lead a rousing pre-battle speech.
Being constantly torn between the two, Chalamet has to quickly (and often) go back and forth. That could be a tiring performance for the best of actors. But he never falters. And though his physical stature might not be exactly what you picture when you think of a king, this emotional juggling and control still manages to give Hal the feel of a king.
So Chalamet is great, but what about the rest of The King? Unfortunately, it’s not quite the complete movie you would like to see. Aside from a hilarious turn by Robert Pattinson (I’m still not sure if all of the humor was intentional or not; I’m inclined to believe not) and an entertaining if underutilized Joel Edgerton, there isn’t a lot here for Chalamet to play off of.
Thomasin McKenzie and Lily-Rose Depp are also both excellent in supporting roles. But their combined on-screen time is probably less than 10 minutes. In a movie sorely lacking in female characters, this was a lost opportunity to feature two highly regarded younger actresses.
While the lack of a strong supporting cast is what ultimately drags The King down just a bit, it’s not something you can blame the actors for. There isn’t a weak performance that sticks out. It’s just that the work they’re given doesn’t allow the actors the chance to show off their considerable collective talent.
And while there’s nothing groundbreaking here, the technical side of The King is perfectly fine. It looks and feels authentic to the time, and that greatly helps you immerse yourself into the setting. The battle scenes especially stand out. Rather than being huge epic battles, they’re more up close and personal. They’re grittier and more intense than you might expect. And that works really well with the thematic elements of the rest of the movie.
Still though, all in all, The King is a good, solid movie. Headlined by a great lead performance, the added interest of political intrigue and strong technical aspects make The King well worth the watch.