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Why Dev Patel’s Riveting Turn in The Green Knight Is Our Film Performance of the Year

2021 ushered in the Devaissance, and we never want it to go away

dev patel green knight film performance 2021
Illustration by Steven Fiche
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    Our 2021 Annual Report continues with the announcement of Dev Patel’s portrayal of Gawain in The Green Knight as our Film Performance of the Year. As the year winds down, stay tuned for more awards, lists, and articles about the best music, film, and TV of 2021. You can find it all in one place here.


    The hero’s journey is a well-known and dependable formula, one that’s been implemented for hundreds of years: protagonist experiences an inciting incident that changes their fate, embarks on an adventure, emerges victorious, and returns home, maybe even having learned something in the process.

    The Green Knight opens with the warning that it is not a typical story, one that does not center around a known king (in this case, Arthur) “nor his song.” The movie unfurls itself slowly, revealing itself to be something different — something more. Similarly, Dev Patel is not a typical leading man; he, too, is something more.

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    The Green Knight is the latest movie to confirm Patel is one of the most interesting actors working right now, and his turn in the film is Consequence’s Performance of the Year.

    David Lowery’s dark fantasy is in fact only the most recent in a long string of great performances from Patel, who broke through with a role in the ensemble British teen drama Skins in 2007. The E4 series was a starting point for a handful of actors who have followed similar paths, particularly Nicholas Hoult and Daniel Kaluuya.

    Following Skins, Patel became widely known for his role in Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire, which is fascinating to revisit now for a number of reasons. First, knowing what we know now of him — specifically his sheer presence and undeniable rugged handsomeness — the Patel of Slumdog Millionaire feels worlds away. Second, and more importantly, Patel is the clear emotional centerpiece of the movie, and it’s hard to believe it would have worked as well without his performance. It may have been the first movie to posit a premise built around this leading man’s powerful presence, but it certainly wasn’t the last.

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    2016’s Lion marked the start of a new era, a Dev Patel renaissance of sorts (one we are thankfully still experiencing). There’s a moment almost halfway through the movie when he enters for the first time, bursting from beneath the surface of the water; the whole film shifts on its axis.

    Patel has proven he can take on roles across genres, and perhaps someday he’ll grace audiences with a full turn as a romantic lead. There was a glimpse of it in his appearance in the serial Amazon adaptation of Modern Love that left anyone who watched craving more (of Dev, to be clear, since Modern Love is otherwise kinda mediocre).

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