Arthur the King: Running a Different Race

I’m not always a fan of inspirational type films. In my experience, many films that take this style play things very safe stay in order to better give their audience hope. Often conversations feel stale, set pieces are minimal and performances are lacking.

But Arthur the King takes a different path. 

Directed by Simon Cellan Jones, Arthur the King is a thrilling and intense film that also manages to warm the heart as well. Based on the best-selling book and the amazing true story, Arthur the King follows Michael Light (Mark Wahlberg), an ultimate racer who left the sport in shame. When one last chance to secure his legacy presents itself, he fights to secure a sponsor and a team of athletes (Simu Liu, Nathalie Emmanuel and Ali Suliman) for the Adventure Racing World Championship in the Dominican Republic. Faced with ten days and 435 miles, this ultimate race pushes the team to the brink of quitting… until a scrappy street dog that they dub Arthur begins to change their fortune.

Simu Liu as Leo and Mark Wahlberg as Michael in Arthur The King. Photo Credit: Carlos Rodriguez

Although the film is named after the loveable dog, Arthur is a very human story. As the team races across the terrain, Jones keeps the emphasis on Michael and his crew. To them, there is more riding on this race than wins and losses. Instead, each of them comes with their own motivation and are challenged to grow along the way. In doing so, Jones ensures that his film sits in the mud with his characters. Left in the most brutal of surroundings forces them to reconcile aspects of their lives that they don’t want to admit, with conversations ranging from battling cancer to leaving a legacy. 

And their journey is genuinely stressful to watch. By setting the film in the midst of rough terrain, Brandt opens the doors for some stunning set pieces. For example, without giving any spoilers, one particular scene where our heroes zipline across a deep chasm is nothing short of breathtaking—and terrifying. (In fact, the scene feels even more dramatic when we realize that find out that this isn’t any green screen. Wahlberg and Co. were actually involved in its filming.) Scenes like this are cinematic in nature, drawing the viewer in beautiful cinematography that carries an element of threat. 

Ali Suliman as Chik and Mark Wahlberg as Michael in Arthur The King. Photo Credit: Carlos Rodriguez

Admittedly, much of the film’s success is due to strong performances by its cast, particularly Liu and Wahlberg. Conversations between the two stars pop with fire as they play a pair of teammates who see the world differently, but are willing to work together. For the most part, their banter feels honest and genuine and that helps us to care about their mission. After all, this team is more than just a collection of loveable underdogs. They are real people with real problems. 

At the same time, Arthur is also an endearing tale about the wonder of animals. Based on the true story, Arthur’s journey is nothing short of remarkable. In the vein of Homeward BoundArthur speaks to the resilience of animals who are willing to stand up to adversity. Surviving the wildest of terrain, Arthur’s determination to be a part of Michael’s team is both amazing and nerve-wracking but one cannot help but become caught up in his adventure. 

Arthur The King. Photo Credit: Carlos Rodriguez

For the cost of a few meatballs, Arthur’s loyalty remains unwavering.

In this spirt, Arthur the King is ultimately about what it means to win. For Michael, victory is essential in order to determine his worth amongst his peers. These are men and women who are willing to travel in the most brutal of territory and victory means that he matters. 

Even so, with age comes wisdom. As his team struggles, the once-toxic leader begins to rethink his ideas about winning. Although winning the race remains the goal, so too does he begin to see the broader picture. Suddenly, for Michael and his crew, winning the race becomes only part of the journey itself and they’re left changed by the result.

Arthur the King is available in theatres on Friday, March 15th, 2024.

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