The Northman

The Northman ★★★★½

By far one of my most anticipated films of 2022, Robert Eggers' fire and brimstone revenge tale doesn't disappoint, despite the extremely high expectations I placed upon it.

Eggers is a brilliant filmmaker, and his third feature is final confirmation of the breadth of his talents. Whilst he has continued to operate within genre cinema, each of his films has taken on a specific strand of horror, whether it be folk (The VVitch), psychological (The Lighthouse), or the primal bloodlusting energy of his latest.

It's not only the subgenres that are switched up though. Each of his films have a distinctive quality unique to themselves, whilst unquestionably born from the same creative mind. The VVitch was a creeping, slow burn (a little too slow for me) of a film, that remained disciplined throughout and hinted at the visionary filmmaker Eggers has become. The Lighthouse - still his masterpiece for me - was a monochrome, 1:19:1 framed, frenzied, two-hander that seeps into your psyche like the water filling the eponymous setting.

And the Northman somehow manages to amalgamate those two distinctive tones and twist them into a very classic tale of Nordic kings, betrayal, Valhalla and the gates of hell.

The Northman is my favourite kind of epic. I call them faux-epics. They're grand in scale and yet at their core is a very simple story. I won't do it here of course, but the plot of this film could be summed up in a few sentences. But this is not a weakness. Instead it provides room for all the weird and wonderful passages that the film serves up. At times it's closer to the best of Aronofsky than anything Eggers himself has offered up before.

And yet, in amongst the bizarre and beautiful, there's still a straightforward tale of vengeance to feast upon. When it's on form, it's some of the best in-your-face filmmaking you'll see all year - my only one small complaint is that we didn't quite get enough of this side to the film, but even that can be countered by the fact that what you get instead, is equally enthralling, and the large spaces between the shit hitting the fan, strengthen the impact of it all the more.

Some excsllent performances throughout - the best Kidman in years, Ana Taylor Joy continuing to shine, a great physical performance from Skarsgård, and a near movie-stealing performance from Claes Bang, who manages to convey every emotion possible in this film, as the fascinating Fjölnir.

In the end though, it's Eggers movie yet again. With each passing film, he is bringing something new to the table, further cementing his status as one of the best around right now.

Now, can we get Nosferatu please?

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