On Netflix from Friday ★★★✩✩
‘I’M FINDING this story impossible to follow,’ drawls Timothée Chalamet’s recently crowned Henry V before we hit half-time in The King and, well, he won’t be alone. An epic on a Shakespearean scale but stripped of Shakespearean language, this handsomely mounted remix of the Bard’s Henry plays nobly aims to draw parallels between these historic travails and the current calamitous state of global affairs. But there are times when it becomes as complicated as a medieval royal family tree.
Chalamet has mastered the art of the introspective moody stare and whispered philosophical musing, and there’s plenty of call for those skills here. His Henry V is a reformed debauched lad who, having greatness thrust upon him when his detested father dies, turns overnight into a canny regal tactician with a persuasive tongue. It’s only down to Chalamet’s undeniable star charisma that this transformation is remotely credible.
Peppered with cameos from the likes of Robert Pattinson (a ripe jambon as the Dauphin), underscored with moody strings and erupting into momentous battle scenes at languid intervals, The King feels like it’s striving for a major statement on the futility of war yet never quite nails it. It’s Chalamet who saves the day. An odd but ultimately inspired choice to play a royal English hero, it’s his understated pulling power that might just drag you through to The King’s battle-weary, bloody end.