The Green Knight First Reviews: An Ambitious "Visual Masterpiece" Built On A Career-Defining Performance from Dev Patel

Complex, unique, and full of sights and sounds you won't soon forget, director David Lowery's Arthurian legend is a treat for adventurous (and patient) moviegoers, say critics.

by | July 26, 2021 | Comments

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Green Knight

(Photo by © A24)

David Lowery is a filmmaker who has no problem balancing original indies (A Ghost Story) and major studio projects (Pete’s Dragon) and keeping a consistent flair for folklore and experimental artistry. His latest, The Green Knight, is based on a medieval tale from Arthurian legend and stars Oscar-nominated actor Dev Patel as the Round Table figure Sir Gawain. While the first reviews praise its unique take on the source material and award-worthy visuals, many acknowledge that its pacing and unconventional storytelling might not be for everyone. But if this is your kind of thing, it sounds like you’re in for an incredible time.

Here’s what critics are saying about The Green Knight…

Is this an early contender for best movie of the year?

“It’s a special film from a special talent, and one of the best of 2021 so far.” – Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

“One of the most memorable films of the year.” – Brian Tallerico,

Will it please fans of medieval fantasy flicks?

“This ain’t your dad’s King Arthur tale…The Green Knight injects a new source of oxygen into the sword-and-sorcery genre.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

“A triumphant cinematic experience that captures every bit of the wonder that permeates the sword and sorcery films of the ‘80s while feeling wholly new and original.” – Meagan Navarro, Bloody Disgusting

“The best Arthurian adaptation this side of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” – Robert Daniels, Polygon

“If you’re expecting sequences of Arthurian action, prepare to be very disappointed.” – Rendy Jones, Rendy Reviews

“It slows down the action of a typical Camelot tale to deliver something richer, more thoughtful, yet laced with chivalric exploits and bizarre encounters.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

 Will you like it more if you’re a fan of the source material?

The Green Knight is so unlike anything else that, whether you or not you’re an Arthurian scholar, you’ll lose your head over it.” – Brian Truitt, USA Today

“Faithful enough to the source material to please ‘fans’ while still offering its share of surprises to the faithful.” – Scott Mendelson, Forbes

“If you don’t already have a cursory grasp of King Arthur et al, you won’t get any help from the movie. However, this plays directly in to one of the themes of the movie.” – Kyle Anderson, Nerdist

Green Knight

(Photo by © A24)

Will it please the historians?

“As a movie, The Green Knight feels like it was scraped out of the deepest, muddiest archaeological sediment of the Age of Chivalry.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“The movie is transportive in its period authenticity, expressed through brilliant set design and atmosphere.” – Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

“While not necessarily period-accurate… because it is fantasy…[it] plunges you into a dreamlike vision of 14th century Europe rooted in Pagan magic and sorcery from its opening frame.” – Meagan Navarro, Bloody Disgusting

How about fans of David Lowery as a filmmaker?

The Green Knight is writer-director David Lowery’s most entrancing work in a career dotted with grand swings of boundless inventiveness.” – Carlos Aguilar, The Playlist

“The real legend born from the screen is director David Lowery, who cements himself as the great American director of his generation.” – Ryan McQuade, AwardsWatch

“Any cinephile will be challenged to not fall in love with David Lowery’s awesome and ambitious experimental uses of his camera”  – Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

The Green Knight has him taking his abilities to the next level.” – Rendy Jones, Rendy Reviews

“It’s his most sumptuous work to date.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

Is this the movie that will make Dev Patel a true movie star?

“Patel finally lays claim to the leading-man mantle so often bequeathed to him…his career-defining performance should establish him as an actor made for big, grand epics.” – Robert Daniels, Polygon

“This film knows that Patel is a heartthrob, and if you didn’t believe it before, you [will] now.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

“Patel was born to play this role, unlocking new depths in both Gawain and himself.” – Proma Kosla, Mashable

Does he also deliver a great performance?

“A career-best performance, Dev Patel shines.” – Brian Truitt, USA Today

“Patel’s strongest performance yet in the meatiest role of his career so far. This is unlike anything we’ve seen from him.” – Ryan McQuade, AwardsWatch

“With Lowery, Patel has finally discovered a director capable of pulling together his natural leading-man bonafides.” – Robert Daniels, Polygon

“Dev Patel is hypnotically good in this challenging role.” – Joey Magidson, Awards Radar

Green Knight

(Photo by © A24)

Do any of the other actors stand out?

“Barry Keoghan is the standout among the supporting players, playing a young battlefield-roaming stranger with sinister intentions.” – Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

“Alicia Vikander shows her range with a surprise dual role whose explanations are kept in the dark, stealing scenes during the film’s most surreal section.” – Emma Stefansky, Thrillist

How does the movie look?

“The film never stops dazzling the viewer with mythic imagery.” – A.A. Dowd, AV Club

“You could pause The Green Knight at any moment and discover an image worth praising.” – Robert Daniels, Polygon

“From the opening frame to its final shot, The Green Knight is a visual masterpiece…each set piece that Gawain treks through has its own distinctive flair in color, lighting, and mood.” – Rendy Jones, Rendy Reviews

“There’s intent to the gloomier colors, just as there’s a beauty in it…Lowery brings a breathtaking artistry to the film, every frame fit to hang in a museum.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

“Lowery and cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo unspool the most stunningly gorgeous film since the Oscar-winning Blade Runner 2049.”- Brandon Katz, Observer

“Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo certainly makes a strong case here for Oscar contention.” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

Green Knight

(Photo by © A24)

Does the movie also have impressive special effects?

“The CG elements…are first-rate, though the film maintains a rough-hewn quality that keeps the viewer fully immersed in the medieval time frame.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“A rare modern gem that makes exceptional use of both practical and visual effect…the CGI work is spectacular.” – Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

How is the titular villain?

“The Green Knight in Lowery’s film is a marvelous creation who anticipates the imagination-tickling wonder that seeps through so much of the tale to come.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“Wooden in texture, an anthropomorphic tree, the titular entity exemplifies the application of visual effects with a narrative purpose beyond spectacle.” – Carlos Aguilar, The Playlist

“The Knight is a creature of uncommon tactility; you feel like you could reach out and run a hand across his corklike skin. Even the film’s digital wizardry has a handmade quality.” – A.A. Dowd, AV Club

Green Knight

(Photo by © A24)

How is the screenplay?

“Lowery’s script deftly matches the poetic structure of its source, circling back to themes like the rhyming structure of a poem, and unfolding his story in what almost feel like cinematic stanzas that repeat and comment on each other.” – Brian Tallerico,

“Gallows humor creeps into the frame to surprise us—a reminder of the director’s playfulness within serious topics.” – Carlos Aguilar, The Playlist

“The story becomes rather dull and the only thing piquing your interest are the endless gorgeous set pieces and the masterful camera movement.”  – Rendy Jones, Rendy Reviews

Is the movie accessible enough for most viewers?

“Almost nothing he chooses to do here is commercial, but the writing hooks you in.” – Joey Magidson, Awards Radar

“It will possibly be too weirdly enigmatic for mainstream tastes, but audiences willing to surrender to its unique spell will savor their time in Gawain’s World.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“Despite The Green Knight‘s opaque obscurity and scattered whims, there’s a clear beginning, middle and end structure that crescendos with a scintillating third Act.” – Brandon Katz, Observer

Green Knight

(Photo by © A24)

Can we actually relate to this centuries-old story?

“It’s deeply relatable and captivating to see someone not fight for lands and/or titles, but fight to achieve their own self-respect.” – Ryan McQuade, AwardsWatch

“He does ultimately locate a relatable subversion of legend in his depiction of Gawain as a young man wrestling mightily with the consequences and responsibilities of delayed manhood.” – A.A. Dowd, AV Club

“At a time when Hollywood has become obsessed with one-dimensional portrayals of superheroism, it’s a balm to see a director working in a similarly epic register to expose the fault lines of our adopted mythologies.” – Charles Bramesco, The Guardian

“Given how much everyone around the world has been confronted with their own mortality over the past year, questioning their lot in life, Green Knight will arguably have more to offer audiences now.” – Patrick Cavanaugh,

How does it sound?

“No less significant than the visuals is the enveloping soundscape created by Johnny Marshall, full of the eerie noise of nature.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“Sometimes you don’t even notice what is happening in the audio space because you’re so dazzled by the visuals, but when you really focus on the sound and audio, it’s another experience entirely.” – Edward Douglas, The Weekend Warrior

Does The Green Knight have any issues?

“It’s quiet and ambient with more emphasis on the journey itself rather than action or violence, but it leaves much to be desired.” – Rendy Jones, Rendy Reviews

“The only hiccup in this foreboding tale is the pacing.” – Robert Daniels, Polygon

Will it leave us with a need to watch it again?

“It’s a movie that is not only incredible to watch play out once, but demands to be rewatched for further examination.” – Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

“Does the most important thing a movie can do; make you want to see it again as soon as possible, and see what Lowery has next up his sleeve.” – Ryan McQuade, AwardsWatch

“More than any movie in a long time, I would have immediately watched it again, but it’s also a film that really strengthens in memory, swirling around your brain like the falling flakes of the opening scenes.” – Brian Tallerico,

The Green Knight is in theaters from Friday July 30, 2021.

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