Irish-shot fantasy adventure The Green Knight 'equal parts beautiful, beguiling and befuddling'

The Green Knight: Dev Patel as Gawain and Sean Harris as King Arthur
Damon Smith

THE GREEN KNIGHT (15 TBC, 129 mins) Fantasy/Adventure/Romance. Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Ralph Ineson, Barry Keoghan, Emmet O'Brien. Director: David Lowery.

Released: September 24

IN ONE haunting sequence from writer-director David Lowery's reinvention of the 14th-century alliterative poem Sir Gawain And The Green Knight, a seemingly benign character assists the eponymous adventurer then whispers under their breath, "Remember this dream, because it gets tricky".

Those menacing words, lost to a bitter wind that swirls over battlefields strewn with contorted bodies, are an understatement.

Equal parts beautiful, beguiling and befuddling, The Green Knight is a fantastical odyssey torn from Arthurian legend that casts Dev Patel as a booze-soaked disappointment to himself, who yearns to be regarded in reverence by the rowdy royal court.

Lowery's script bookmarks Gawain's quest into chapters in keeping with chivalric storytelling tradition, incorporating key motifs from the 2,500-word poem, which was translated into English by JRR Tolkien.

Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo canters side by side with the director, conjuring woozy, nightmarish encounters with a Lord (Joel Edgerton) and Lady (Alicia Vikander) and an opportunistic scavenger (Barry Keoghan) that echo the mournful tone of Lowery's 2017 film, A Ghost Story.

A talking fox and a tribe of eerie giants marauding through billowing mist, both rendered using digital trickery beyond the understanding of Merlin (Emmet O'Brien), linger tantalisingly in the memory when the meaning of some heavily stylised vignettes slips through our grasp.

An increasingly frail and weary King Arthur (Sean Harris) presides over the kingdom of Camelot with Queen Guinevere (Kate Dickie) as valiant knights tuck into a lavish Christmas feast assembled along the round table.

The king beckons reckless nephew Sir Gawain (Patel) to approach his throne so they might become better acquainted.

"Tell me a tale of thyself so I may know thee," urges Arthur.

"I have none to tell," ruefully responds Gawain.

"Yet…" Guinevere corrects him, foreshadowing a life-changing odyssey that is already in motion thanks to the pagan witchcraft of Gawain's mother, Morgan le Fay (Sarita Choudhury), and her chanting coven.

A hulking emerald-skinned warrior on horseback gate-crashes the Yuletide festivities and issues a challenge.

The Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) offers his axe as a prize to any man who can land a glancing blow in combat.

The challenger must agree to receive a blow of comparable force and ferocity the following December.

Gawain impetuously accepts and one year hence, the king's nephew honours his promise, embarking on an epic six-day journey north to the Green Chapel.

Shot in Ireland, The Green Knight employs a wintry colour palette to send a chill down the spine almost as much as composer Daniel Hart's otherworldly score.

Patel is compelling as a young man gripped by self-doubt, who strives to be perfect and discovers that the strongest armour can't protect him from life's most devastating blows.

Nor should it, because pain, regret and acceptance are necessary steps on the path to nobility.

Rating: 4/5

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