‘The Green Knight:’ Deeply flawed with some thought-provoking moments


David Lowery’s “The Green Knight” is a gorgeous, yet tedious fantasy journey about a knight trying to stay true to the saying “An eye for an eye.” Based on an Arthurian Legend, the film leans into a heavy medieval vibe for all of its runtime. It stars Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, Sean Harris as King Arthur, Alicia Vikander as Essel, Ralph Ineson as The Green Knight, and Joel Edgerton as The Lord.

The Green Knight, from a technical standpoint, is nearly flawless. The atmosphere is raw and surreal. The music is engaging if not varied, the computer generated effects are visually engaging, and the cinematography is impeccable. The film easily ranks near the top with the best looking movies of 2021.

Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo often places Sir Gawain’s silhouette in front of popping colors during the many surreal sequences when Gawain is having trouble drawing the line between reality and his many hallucinations. Additionally, there is one visually astounding scene where Gawain comes face to face with roaming giants. The only flaw is that at times in the first act, the dark lighting of Arthur’s halls is so dark that the viewer cannot see what’s happening.

The acting in The Green Knight is high quality, but nothing amazing. Dev Patel gives a very convincing performance as Sir Gawain, allowing the audience to see a flawed man’s fears and insecurities without saying much. Ralph Ineson gives a great vocal performance in his limited screen time as The Green Knight, as does Joel Edgerton as The Lord. Additionally, Alicia Vikander is a standout as Gawain’s lover, Essel, and any viewer will be surprised at how much she represents in the story.

The Green Knight’s plot is kicked into motion when King Arthur talks to Gawain about how he has no tales of honor, courage, or valor to his name yet, and Arthur promises Gawain that that will change. Soon after, Gawain attempts to prove his valor by brutally attacking the Green Knight, but his swing makes no lasting effect on the giant. This leads Gawain to eventually seek the Green Knight out one year later to fulfill their bargain. Gawain departs from his family and home on a journey to an uncertain destination. It’s safe to say that it had a very engaging first act.

The Green Knight’s second act is when the cracks begin to show. The long panning shots of Gawain on his journey through all matters of locations are visually engaging, but eventually they become tedious, as there are long periods where not one advance in the plot is made. The pacing is atrocious, as there is nearly nothing to keep the viewer engaged and there are some laughable plot points. 

The third and final act is where “The Green Knight” really falls apart. After nearly 90 minutes of buildup, the climax of the movie falls flat and drones on for far too long. The resolution of Gawain and The Green knight’s conflict is supremely disappointing at first, and the special effects on Gawain’s talking fox friend are very lackluster. Viewers had been waiting through a poorly paced second act that does nothing but build up to the confrontation between our seeming hero and villain, and the outcome is nothing but disappointing. 

The Green Knight tries to be a lot, and succeeds at some parts. It is visually perfect, and most of the effects and music are above average. It delves into some complex themes of heroism and honor, and tears apart the traditional fantasy stereotypical hero. Sir Gawain is an interesting protagonist who provides the audience with a relatable vessel to experience the story through. The Green Knight is a deeply flawed yet engaging film, and it should be recommended to any who have interest in the fantasy genre and are willing to pour their minds into dissecting a complex movie.

Grade: C+