‘The King’: Of Netflix
by Ben Nietzel
April 07, 2020

“The King” is based on the life of the king of England Henry V. It’s an adaptation of Shakespeare’s adaptation of this time in English history. It’s a Netflix original film and can be viewed from your home with a subscription or free trial.

Pro – Interesting History

“The King” is set in 15th century England. It’s a blend of fact and fiction, with a heavy reliance on the latter whenever it would make for a better story. To this end, it’s quite successful.

 “The King” is an engaging tale. Upon the death of his paranoid father, young Hal (the future King Henry V) must cast off a life debasing himself in order to assume the highest mantel in the land. This period of the story feels a bit rushed as Hal slides a little too comfortably into the role, but the bulk of the movie is reserved for the newly crowned king’s conflict with France. 

The provocations and resulting conflicts lead to one of the most decisive and important battles in military history, the Battle of Agincourt. The monumental events of history serve as a backdrop, as the film focuses primary on the coming of age of King Henry, played wonderfully by Timothee Chalamet. The film, of course, features medieval combat, but also the courtly intrigue and politics that can make royal life so fascinating. The overall cast is solid, with lots of great performances from recognizable faces.

Con – Epic in Disguise

The biggest knock on “The King” is it doesn’t feel as epic as it truly is. Some of this is no doubt due to a bit of a constrained budget. The movie looks good, and this is a far cry from some made for TV movie. This is a true film. The issue is that movies about major historical events have a scope, look, and feel that is epic. “The King” is very close to achieving this, but it just feels a bit off. This is keenly felt when the action is taken from inside a throne room to the field of battle. That’s not to say the military set pieces aren’t well done; they are, but everything feels just a little smaller than it should.

Pro – Gritty

What the film really nails though is the grittiness of medieval combat. Combat of this age was brutal, bloody, and immensely chaotic. What it lacks in grandeur, “The King” makes up for in close-in intensity. The romantic notions of knightly combat are stripped away to reveal the true horror that only masses of men, sharpened weapons, and horses could produce. All this is set against the backdrop of the muddy fields of Agincourt. For those unfamiliar with medieval times, aside from “Game of Throne’s” take on it or an overpriced restaurant, it’s gives a great sense of the horrors of human conflict from a different age without excessive amputations and blood.

“The King” is a very entertaining film. It lacks just a bit of panache of some of its theatrical brothers, but not by much. The story is engaging, and action is a sobering look at the realities of edge weapon combat. Considering it’s “free” for anyone with a Netflix subscription, it’ s a great way to spend a couple hours while cooped up in your home.

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