Lawrence Stacey’s review published on Letterboxd:
Unlike any film I've ever seen before in an absolutely brilliant way. The Northman is daring, stunning and will leave in awe. It's one of the best cinema experiences you'll ever have for a number of reasons.
The first of those reasons is the cinematography. The Northman is probably the best-looking film I've seen in the cinema. I know it's not in UK cinemas for much longer but if you're anywhere else DO NOT WAIT FOR THIS TO COME OUT ON STREAMING. Every single shot in the movie is perfect. It's got the best aesthetics of any movie I've seen in the cinema and is a must-watch on the big screen. The range of shots that are used as well are great. There's everything from a 3rd person-perspective of Amleth heading into battle to extreme close-ups and really wide shots that capture the surroundings to create something that looks like its been painted on the scene. Jarin Blaschke and Robert Eggers did such a good job. The beauty of the locations they used is so well captured and as the movie ranges between a cold and hot, wet and dry or snowy setting, the cinematography is adjusted suitably for the situation. The scene that I feel encapsulates the film's visual beauty the most is probably the final scene which takes place in a very fiery place (no spoilers) and the section of the movie is titled "the gates of hell" and the cinematographer and the director captured something in those final moments that is exactly what you'd imagine hell to look like. The finale is brutal, bloody and fiery and it would be nothing without the visual power the film holds. Surely it will win the best cinematography Oscar- it's incredible.
The dialogue of the film is also partly what gives it its unique feeling. Seen as the film is based off of Hamlet, a lot of Shakesperean style dialogue is used, which threw me off at the beginning but I adjusted very quickly. Once again though, any parts of the dialogue I didn't understand were made up very nicely with the excellent visual story-telling. It's not fully Shakesperean though and a lot of it has also been adapted to suit a more modern audience. The part Shakespeare, part modern dialogue creates the effect that Eggers is trying to go for a sort of sophisticated blockbuster and my God does it work well. The dialogue never feels bland or tiresome and it's very interesting and most things said feel meaningful in some way and even though it definitely requires your full attention, you will find yourself immersed by it.
As I've already mentioned, the film is based off Hamlet and the plot is great. If you've seen The Lion King (who hasn't) you'll recognize it very quickly and even the evil brother, Fjolnir, looks like a human version of Scar in a very weird way. The film obviously contains a massive time jump from Amleth's childhood to adulthood but both versions of the character feel fleshed-out and as the film progresses and Amleth's desires start conflicting and he discovers something shocking it just gets more and more interesting and there was only about 10 minutes near the middle of the film that I felt myself become slightly bored by. Amleth's character is brilliant and more and more layers and depth are added to him and by the end of the film he's much more than just the cold-blooded and valiant warrior that I thought he would be judging from what I'd seen. Another thing that makes the plot so interesting is everything about the supernatural and fate. The film doesn't rely too much on ideas about magic or witches as something like the plot of Macbeth does but instead the idea of destiny and fate is what drives the film and makes the ending all the more interesting and makes you think whether the character really got what he wanted.
In terms of action, the film is very different to how I was expecting. I wasn't expecting massive battles but I was surprised when I realised that the film was actually fairly small- scale for such an epic. Most of the film takes place in one particular location and even though it is different to how I expected, the action is great. It's visceral, brutal and violent and even though it's not particularly flashy, it fits the dark and gritty tone of the film so well and adds more weight to the scenes, particularly the final one.
The acting is great all round. Skarsgard is the stand-out in the main role of Amleth but really there's not a single bad performance. Even more minor roles such as that of Willem Dafoe's character are really entertaining and don't detract from the film at all. Anna Taylor-Joy, Nicole Kidman and Claes Bang play the other main roles and each role is quite dark but none of the actors feel like they're over-acting at any point despite many scenes being very expressive.
I would've liked the romance to be slightly more developed but apart from that, the film is near perfect. I could go into more detail but I don't want to spoil anything for those who are yet to see it. The Northman is a must-watch cinema experience that you must absolutely go and watch if you haven't. It's such a great cinema experience that I will remember for quite some time.