The 14th-century Arthurian poem is adapted for the big screening with The Green Knight. Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) is an aspiring knight and the nephew of King Arthur (Sean Harris), who is often found drunk in a brothel with his lover Essel (Alicia Vikander), reprimanded for doing so by his mother (Sarita Choudhury). Gawain joins the King and Queen (Kate Dickie) on Christmas Day, as the Knights of the Round Table are approached by a Green Knight (Ralph Ineson), who challenges the court to a game, with anyone able to land a blow on him to win his axe, with the condition being that the winner seeks out the Green Knight at his chapel a year hence to receive an equal wound in return. Gawain volunteers and promptly cuts off The Green Knight's head, only for the supernatural being to get up and ride away laughing. After a too-short year, Gawain sets off on his quest for the Green Chapel to meet his fate.
The Green Knight is a dark fantasy written for the screen and directed by David Lowery (A Ghost Story), based on the 14th-century Middle English chivalric romance “Sir Gawain and The Green Knight.” The story is set in the time of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, though the film opts not to dwell too much on this fact. Instead, the focus is primarily on Arthur's nephew Sir Gawain, who has aspirations of being a great knight but hasn't yet done anything of note in his life. When Gawain foolishly misjudges the seriousness of The Green Knight's “game,” he has to set out to meet the knight on Christmas Day to get what is coming to him. Along the way, Gawain has a number of encounters that threaten to impede his question, including a group of bandits lead by a battlefield scavenger (Barry Keoghan), a ghost named Winifred (Erin Kellyman), and a Lord (Joel Edgerton) and Lady (Alicia Vikander), who play their own game with Gawain.
The Green Knight is undoubtedly a film that is a step up in scale from David Lowery's previous film A Ghost Story, with the film sporting some awe-inspiring cinematography that makes this a film that is best experienced on the big screen. However, in a similar fashion to A Ghost Story, The Green Knight isn't exactly an easily digestible film, with a somewhat slow pace the develops over its 130-minute running time. The film takes a very episodic structure, with each of the encounters Sir Gawain has on his journey given its own on-screen title card.
The Green Knight is darker than the typical fantasy film, with the plot at times skirting the line with horror. The film is also filled with metaphors about accepting one's destiny, particularly the consequences of one's actions. Probably the most interesting choice David Lowery makes with The Green Knight is the casting of Alicia Vikander in the dual roles of Essel, Gawain's lover back home, as well as the Lady, who proceeds to seduce Gawain during one of his many stops on his quest for the Green Chapel. Another interesting choice is the final act of the film, which visualizes Gawain's future without any dialogue, which might come off as jarring to some expecting a more clear-cut conclusion to the film.
Altogether, I would say that The Green Knight is not a film without its flaws, but is still a relatively enjoyable dark fairytale.