The Northman

The Northman ★★★★½

“I will avenge you, Father! I will save you, Mother! I will kill you, Fjölnir!“

The Northman is everything a Viking film should be. It’s brutal, it’s blood-pumping and all around great fun to watch.

It centres around Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård), a prince who is taking revenge on his uncle, Fjölnir (Claes Bang), for killing his father, King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke), and also try and free his mother, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman).

It is filled with extremely brutal violence. It has blood and gore sprawling everywhere, smooth beheadings and disturbing-looking corpses. All the violence, although graphic, is so addictive to watch due to the amazing choreography.

The story is essentially Hamlet. It’s a story that has been told many, many different times in cinema, such as The Lion King, so it wasn’t anything new and I could see where the plot was going immediately once I realised that. But it all works surprisingly well in the Viking setting. 

The one thing I will say about the writing is that the dialogue was surprisingly bad. The Vikings used to be poets, so I have no idea why they talk like robots in this movie. It was predictable, lazy, lifeless and just a letdown in general. And if I hear the quote above ONE MORE TIME I SWEAR TO GOD.

The whole aspect of Viking life is captured perfectly in this film. From their royalty and unforgiving warriors to their farmers and slaves, it gave a very rounded view of life at that time (although the film focused heavily on the warriors obviously). It also dives into Norse mythology quite a lot, which is something I wasn’t anticipating. It was a brilliant decision as it created many abstract moments in the film that were incredibly interesting to sit through.

The cinematography was great, with beautiful wide shots of the Icelandic mountains and up-close, claustrophobic shots of battles. It was all helped by the fantastic score that really got me in the Viking mood.

It has some memorable moments of acting, for better and worse:

Alexander Skarsgård was great as Amleth, adding the right amount of testosterone and grit to his performance. I cannot find any big flaws in his performance, he was the perfect Viking. 

Anya Taylor Joy was good but didn’t give the most significant performance. There were moments were she took control of a scene and really made an impression, but those only happened a few times unfortunately. It wasn’t as strong as her performance in Robert Eggers’ first film, The Witch.

Claes Bang did a great job playing Fjölnir, giving a captivating performance. He had good chemistry with Ethan Hawke, who also gave a good performance.

However the Queen, played by Nicole Kidman, was not nearly as captivating to watch. Maybe this is because I think Nicole Kidman is a really bad actress (to be fair, it’s most likely because of that). In some places I thought she genuinely gave a decent performance, but that never really lasted. She was just an unlikable character that lacked any believable emotion; I never enjoyed watching her.

The supporting cast varied.
Björk gave a creepy and mysterious performance but sadly was underused.
The child actor for Gunnar was absolutely TERRIBLE. I don’t like to give out about young actors as it’s difficult at a young age to match the professionals around you, but MY GOD was he horrendous. He was so disingenuous in everything he said and really took me out of the movie. Just downright bad.
Willem Dafoe was fantastic as always, but suffered the same unfortunate fate as Björk. He played it excellently though and gave a very memorable performance. 

It’s the ultimate Viking film, with blood-pumping violence and a great Norse tale. It’s very different to Robert Eggers’ other movies but it’s good to see that he shines in areas other than horror.

2022 RANKED 

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