James’s review published on Letterboxd:
A boring protagonist holds back this viking epic.
The film follows a viking warrior named Almeth as he hunts down his uncle years after his father's murder.
Well, if you know Robert Eggers' work, you know what to expect going in. There are some wonderully trippy visuals that have deeper meanings and refer to Norse mythology in interesting ways. There is also some amazing, jaw-dropping cinematography which makes this an early Oscar contender for that category. All of the brutal battle sequences are shot with long tracking shots which are a marvel to behold. Eggers never misses a beat in his visual storytelling, and that is likely this movie's strongest asset.
I also think the story here is quite well done. Like Eggers' other screenplays, he goes for an authentic style of dialogue which is meant to sound like how people from the era really spoke. It does a wonderful job grounding you in the world that the story takes place in, and the story itself ain't too shabby. I enjoyed watching Almeth slowly take down his uncle's defenses with a mix of murder and psychological warfare. Sadly, Almeth himself isn't much to write home about.
I do want to say, Amleth isn't a bad character. I get his motives, but for too long he just feels like an angry brute. It's not until past the halfway point where I felt like I learned anything about him beyond his revenge quest. Those around him seem to actually get more fleshing out than him, especially early on (with Willem Dafoe making the most of his brief appearance), and I felt I understood his uncle, Fjolnir, more than Amleth himself for quite a while. He does become much more interesting as his relationship with Olga blossoms, and I liked his arc by the end, but he felt kinda one note for a good portion of the run time.
Still, I cannot deny that Eggers has created another wonderful piece of art, and one that's more easy to understand than The Lighthouse (even if I prefer that one to this).