DonnyB’s review published on Letterboxd:
....a life of death.
I was so excited for this opening night, I love Eggers and darker films. I was mesmerized by the 1st half but felt the buzz wear off a bit as we reached the ending. I understood everything that happened, but I didn't fully grasp why. Today was my 2nd time around, and I'm starting to see the full picture now. This was way more mystical than I originally thought and it may require some quick research to fill in the gaps like I did with The Lighthouse lol
The sections separated by title cards really stand out to me. The 1st 2 sections are heavily edited, quickly paced, full of wild performances and crazy action pieces. Flawless and incredible, it's exactly what everyone expected from the teasers and snippets about budget, scale, etc. But once you get into the 3rd section, it feels like the actual movie Eggers wanted to make. The pacing slows way down (not too slow), the characterization gets way deeper, takes are much longer and you're actually living with these characters in their setting. In the theater, this is where the guys hoping for constant GOT battles started shifting in their seats. It's not even really a section anymore, I think he just needed 2 prologues to jump in and tell the story he wanted. Because of this structure, I couldn't pinpoint how the experience even felt the first time. I knew it was brilliant but I was unsettled.
This is definitely better the 2nd time around and puts all other viking media to shame. This is a MUST-see for any fans of The Witch or The Lighthouse. Eggers is 3 for 3.
Absolutely stunning visuals, great setup, authentic, brutal, mystic, and not as 'by the book' as you would think for a revenge tale. I can't even tell if some performances were god-tier or an awkward miss and I LOVE that. You're watching something far more real and vulnerable. It's oddly intimate but if I had to say one negative thing- it would be that it doesn't seem to have as much heart as it could. Maybe somewhere on the editing floor it did, but I also heard Robert Eggers had to make an entirely different cut for this to be released. The heavily edited 'prologues' will blow any Game Of Thrones/Vikings fan's mind, the quality is unmatched. The movie really starts later so while the edit works in its favor, it also seemed to shuffle its heart around too. Even though The Northman isn't completely centered and balanced, I would consider it a masterpiece with some brilliant filmmaking.
The ending is perfect.
EDIT: after reading so many other reviews -- THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD AVOID ALL TRAILERS lol I wasn't expecting some action flick because I went in blind. I just knew 'Eggers' and 'bigger' and that's what I got ♡