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A contemporary spin on Henry V: The King movie review

David Michôd and Joel Edgerton’s "The King" breaks free from the poetic iambic pentameter Shakespearean style it’s based on and recreates the plot with more detail than many past cinematic versions of the play.

"The King" is a historical drama based on Shakespeare’s play, "Henry V," and was released Nov. 1 on Netflix.

Set in 15th century England, King Henry IV (played by Ben Mendelsohn) is dying from sickness and must choose one of his sons to succeed his throne. He is left with two choices: Prince Hal (Timothee Chalamet), the first-born with a reputation of avoiding his responsibilities, or Prince Thomas (Dean-Charles Chapman), who is eager to be king but is soft and thirsty for war.

In comparison to the 1989 film version of "Henry V" directed by Kenneth Branagh, this new rendition made the story much more realistic and believable. Casting Chalamet — a tall, skinny, dark-haired 23-year-old — for the role of Henry V was a good call because it accurately represented the controversy many English had with such a young man ruling the land.

As the story goes, Henry V experiences a mental shift in his behaviors and fully commits to playing the role of a good king. The movie shows us early on that he cares about preventing bloodshed whenever possible by challenging the leader of his opposing army to one-on-one combat instead of using the whole army.

The movie portrays Henry V as someone who struggles with trust because of problems with family, friends and people who have tried to have him assassinated. The one man Henry V feels he can trust is John Falstaff (played by Joel Edgerton), who was his companion while he was a prince.

In Shakespeare’s play, Falstaff is a drunken, cowardly knight who died of illness after Hal left him to become king. In contrast, Edgerton’s version of Falstaff is embraced as a hero who stayed loyal to Henry V. In the film, he dies for him in battle so they could get the entire French army on the muddy battlefield.

The strategy of war was portrayed more intricately in this version than the 1989 one. In Michôd’s version, the counselors of Henry V say they are outnumbered five to one and will never win. But Falstaff intercedes, saying the rain will make the field muddy and the French will be crippled with their heavy armour.

As for the acting efficiency of Robert Pattinson, who played Dauphin the villain, I was slightly disappointed with the way he presented himself in the movie. He did a good job of appearing haughty and egotistical, but Pattinson has enough acting experience to give this character a darker persona that could have made a more intimidating villain for Henry V.

Before the battle, there is a scene where Dauphin asks Henry V if he is scared, and Henry V doesn't respond. It didn't seem like Henry V was scared enough for fighting his first battle as king when the French army is so much larger than his.

The movie is rated R because of foul language and intense violence including decapitations, multiple stabs and young boys being shot in the back with arrows from the French. It also shows Henry V more skillful at fighting, as he viciously kills man after man in the battlefield.

The one aspect that came across as less convincing to the viewer was Henry V’s speech of encouragement to the English army before the battle began. It seemed as if the soldiers couldn't get over the fact that their ruler was just a teenager. But, at the end of the battle, every English soldier kneels before him in respect as he exits the field.

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Despite Chalamet’s juvenile portrayal of Henry V, he shows a lot more intellectual insight than does the 1989 Henry V played by Branagh. He is deeply concerned about making the best decisions as king. He also has a better understanding of the French language when speaking with the French king’s daughter, Catherine (played by Lily-Rose Depp).

"The King" was a captivating rendition of Henry V and was written well enough that the play does not need to be read to understand the story. Anyone who enjoys movies on history, war, strategy and literature should consider watching "The King." The movie is 140 minutes long, and it's difficult to get bored or confused at any point.

Daniel Ward is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or on Twitter  @DanielW92517035

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