King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Review
By Rich Cline
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It’s unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This raucous historical romp spins the iconic legend into something that’s relentlessly entertaining, even if it never quite satisfies because it’s in such a hurry to set up a sequel. Thankfully, there are some deeper themes along the way that give the actors something to chew on besides the scenery.
In post-Roman Britain, King Uther (Eric Bana) has been killed by his brother Vortigern (Jude Law), who made a deal that involved some very black magic. But Vortigern is haunted by the fact that Uther’s infant son Arthur somehow escaped and will someday return to pull the sword Excalibur from the stone and claim his rightful throne. Meanwhile in Londinium, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) has no idea who he really is. Raised in a brothel and trained as a muscled fighter, he has a nice little racket going on. So discovering his identity is a shock. He’s immediately spirited away by a mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and some rebels (Djimon Hounsou and Aiden Gillen) who help him plot how to take back his crown.
The entire film is essentially a chase as Vortigern and his chief goon (Peter Ferdinando) pursue Arthur and his growing band of rebels. That all of this is leading to an epic confrontation is no surprise. But Ritchie oddly frames each action sequence as a splintered montage, which means we’re only ever watching a series of key images with no momentum or context. Some of these work cleverly, but they begin to wear us out: we know what’s happening but we’re not able to experience it ourselves. Thankfully the dialogue has a witty present-day snap that brings the characters and the camaraderie between them to vivid life.
Hunnam makes a superb hero, charismatic and physically imposing, with a jagged sense of humour and an undercurrent of thoughtful reflection as Arthur struggles with the realisation that he’s a king instead of a street urchin. The ensemble cast is solid around him, although only Law gets the chance to steal scenes as the swaggering baddie with a tortured soul. Ritchie assembles this in a way that leaves us unsure what might come next, so the film is often exciting to watch. Even if the action is too whizzy for its own good, it has a sense of scale that makes it eye-catching. And the script’s exploration of identity and power is actually meaningful. Still, you can’t help but think Ritchie should have made this into a TV series instead.
Starring: Charlie Hunnam as Arthur Pendragon, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as Mage, Jude Law as Vortigern, Djimon Hounsou as Sir Bedivere, Eric Bana as King Uther Pendragon, Aidan Gillen as Goosefat Bill Wilson, Annabelle Wallis as Maggie, Katie McGrath as Elsa, David Beckham as Trigger, Freddie Fox as Rubio, Craig McGinlay as Percival, Tom Wu as George, Kingsley Ben-Adir as Wet Stick, Neil Maskell as Back Lack, Oliver Zac Barker as Young Arthur, Geoff Bell as Mischief John, Poppy Delevingne as Igraine, Millie Brady as Catia, Nicola Wren as Lucy, Wil Coban as Brother Blackleg, Bleu Landau as Blue, Jacqui Ainsley as Lady of the Lake, Georgina Campbell as Kay, Rob Knighton as Mordred, Peter Ferdinando as Earl of Mercia, Michael McElhatton as Jack’s Eye, Mikael Persbrandt as Greybeard, James Warren as Mike, Ellie Graham as Maria, Kamil Lemieszewski as Merlin, Michael Hadley as Mage King, Charlie Rawes as Axeman, Kalle Hennie as Viking, Alan Turkington as General 1, Lorraine Bruce as Syren 1, Eline Powell as Syren 2, Hermione Corfield as Syren 3, Peter Guinness as Baron 1, Mark Umbers as Baron 2, Adrian Bouchet as Baron 3, Florence Bell as Woman 1, Anna Brooks Beckman as Woman 2, Cordelia Bugeja as Woman 3, Rebecca Calder as Maid 1, Cristian Lazar as Merchant (uncredited), Lee Nicholas Harris as Dan Clan Mafia (uncredited), Chris Marchant as Brothel Punter (uncredited), Gintare Beinoraviciute as Noble (uncredited), Alice E. Mayer as Noble Girl (uncredited), Pip Phillips as Prostitute (uncredited), Claira Watson Parr as Noblewoman (uncredited), Ruolan Zhang as Chinese Tea Lady (uncredited), Alphonso Austin as Slave Labourer (uncredited), Raed Abbas as Merchant Qadeer Abdul (uncredited), Rudy Barrow as Londinium Fighter (uncredited), Steve Barnett as Brothel Punter (uncredited), Gregor Babic as Mage (uncredited), Daniel Stisen as SPAC / Londinum Fighter (uncredited), Joel Bryant as Londinium Fighter (uncredited), Perry Burke as Blackleg Knight (uncredited), Dacio Caballero as Fighter (uncredited), Randeep Chana as Dan Clan (uncredited), Lucy Chappell as Young Mother (uncredited), Jamie Ben Chambers as Knight (uncredited), Pedro Caxade as Vortigern’s Guard (uncredited), Nick Cornwall as Clan Head 1 (uncredited), Tom Coulston as Pendragon Army (uncredited), Karl Farrer as Nobleman (uncredited), Edward Mannering as Londinium Warrior (uncredited), Brendan McCoy as Mage (uncredited), Harry Palmer as Blackleg Knight (uncredited)
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