The Green Knight

Directed by David Lowery

Screenplay by David Lowery, based on “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” by Anonymous

Starring Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Ralph Ineson, Barry Keoghan

Much like the fog that crowds the English countryside in David Lowery’s “The Green Knight,” its audience enthralled by the imagery on the screen, moments of euphoria set in, enchantment as it were. Perhaps it is Dev Patel’s wild-eyed abandoned look as he seeks to fulfill a pact. Maybe it is Lowery’s keen eye and intellect sharing a journey to fulfill a prophetic destiny.

Either way, “The Green Knight,” which audiences have patiently waited for nearly two years, hits theater screens in the U.S. and Canada on Friday is sure to delight with subtly textured nuances and a strong cast giving rise to the Arthurian legend.

Above all, remember: Lowery’s adaptation of Sir Gawain’s (Patel) fantasy adventure recalls such classics as 1983’s “The Neverending Story,” 1986’s “Labyrinth,” 2009’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” or 2016’s “A Monster Calls.” These stories feature characters discovering not only their inner strength but their courage as well.

Dev Patel is exceptionally well-equipped for such a journey. The actor’s modesty as a human being, his empathetic nature ensures that Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s pompous and headstrong nephew, will remain ever so slightly unguarded, his vanity taking residence over his insecurities. Headstrong and with only his trusted steed and provisions enough for a slightly extended trip through the rugged terrain dot the English Isles, Sir Gawain charges forward.

Lowery doesn’t have to work too hard to convince us of Sir Gawain’s insecurities, though.

The director surrounds Sir Gawain with a bevy of characters who seek to challenge him throughout, most notably his mother, Morgan Le Fay (Sarita Choudhury), and even the king himself (Sean Harris). They both know that Sir Gawain is capable of so much more than simply being an aimless drunkard. Interestingly, the elegant King’s Court setting for the Knights of the Round Table beckons you into the world Lowery creates. Lit ever so selectively, cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo highlights the hardened stone walls of the castle for context. In contrast, a light shone in the center of the round casts a heavenly pallor about its patrons, feeding into the myths surrounding the 14th century in which the film is set.

Along the journey, the Scavenger, played with gusto by Barry Keoghan (“American Animals,” “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”), taunts Sir Gawain. Lowery frames Keoghan with a delightful sneer. The camera lingers on Keoghan as he plots and schemes. Patel’s empathy rings true, only to be met with the first of his challenges.

Interestingly, Lowery (“A Ghost Story”) breaks “The Green Knight” up into chapters, a title card for each section of the story. For this critic, it was a welcome way to section up the journey, a bit of respite to steer you through Sir Gawain’s journey.

The most extensive section of the film involves the Lady (Alicia Vikander) and the Lord played by Joel Edgerton. Vikander swoons us while Edgerton sways us as they regale Sir Gawain offering him rest. Not everything is as it seems, though. Lowery tests Sir Gawain and, consequently, we question whether Sir Gawain, and we the audience are ready to weather our destiny – the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson).

Lowery worked with the Weta magicians behind Smeagol from “The Lord of the Rings,” another inspiration for “The Green Knight.” I’d stop short of saying that they’ve perfected the technology behind creating such a stunning character, but my jaw hit the cinema floor when Gawain meets the Green Knight. The textures they achieved, the facial movements, the articulation the character has as it moves, felt as natural as a tree swaying the wind, and every bit as horrific in its menace. Yet, there was a serenity in the character thanks for Ineson’s performance, aided by Patel’s fun as he gathers the strength.

“The Green Knight” so captivates with its lushness, its richness, that I immediately wanted to jump in line to get another ticket, sure that I’d missed something, and not for lack of trying. Lowery adds layers to the story, unexpected and welcome; its psychology reaches beyond finding courage – it peeks into your soul and causes you to question your own choices. Be sure to stay through the end credits for the fullest of experiences.

Be brave. “The Green Knight” will astound and please you.

R, 125 minutes, A24/Ley Line Entertainment/Bron Studios/Sailor Bear