The Northman Review

At this point it seems like only a fool would bet against Robert Eggers when he has a movie coming out. The dude has directed now 3 movies that are just all the hype, and all the pay off. Or at least that is the hope here for The Northman, and I gotta say I had all the hype from the trailer before I even knew it was one of his. So does Eggers pull off the hat trick with this Scandinavian revenge epic? Boy, I can’t wait to tell you.

You may ask “What is the story here? Is it Willem DaFoe talking about lobster in a Swedish accent?” Well, as entertaining as that may be, it is a bit more than that. We start in a Viking kingdom, who’s lord King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) is returning from raiding to be greeted by his wife Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) and his son Amleth (Oscar Novak for now, but played by Alexander Skarsgård the rest of the film). Well, after a wild Norse mushroom trip between father and son, the king is murdered by his brother Fjölnir (Claes Bang), and Amleth escapes vowing revenge and to save his mother whom from Fjölnir who has taken her as his bride. We pass a large portion of time to find Amleth now a hulking Viking Berserker, but not at all on his path of revenge, until fate and magic set him on that path.

What follows there is a brilliant mix of mysticism, fantasy, delusion, blood, and downright Shakespearian story. It seems truly no accident that our main character is named so close to “Hamlet” with the story being told, and the downright poetic nature of the film. It is an amazing mix of Sword and Sandals violence and brutality, and artful prose worthy of the bard. And it gets mixed with some of the most stunning visuals I have seen on screen in a long time. It plays up the mysticism that it seems so happy to blur the lines on if it can truly be real, or just the processing of the less science knowing minds of the character. Even at one point calling out one such scene as purely a delusion of his sick and wounded body and mind. It plays with your perception so well, while engrossing you in just stunning landscapes and fights.

I really need to praise Eggers here even more for how he has developed as a director. His last 2 films are wonderful, but definitely much slower paced and more something to think on. I think The Lighthouse is still my favorite, but the way the plot moves here, and the amount of raw action breaks up the mysticism so well that it makes it so much more approachable too. Eggers’ horror roots in his last two films absolutely shines here, without making this into a horror movie. There are scenes of absolutely horrible violence done with a visceral care and love in how it is shot. Darkness is used as a tool to build tension, and exaggerate actions as they come into the light. It is a masterclass of cinema, and so wonderful to see his growth into this when viewing his career. So if you are at all a fan of his other films then I definitely recommend you make the time for this.

Lastly I need to praise the acting, which almost is the only negative because of how little we get of some of the talent here. I hate to tell you this, but there is very little we get of Ethan Hawke, and even less of Willem DaFoe Heimir the Fool. You read that right, DaFoe is a court jester and downright the Joker levels of that when he also gets to run the drug fueled Viking vision quest as well, and he relishes in it. As does Hawke as a focused king who cares more for his raids than his wife or home. But if we’re talking about stars that steal their scenes and leave you wanting more, that may have to go to Kidman who is in rare form as a haunting matriarch and powerhouse performance. She gets plenty of screentime, but always leaves you wanting more. Her couple of scenes opposite Skarsgård are just phenomenal and showcase their strengths. And that’s also saying a lot when Skarsgård is doing that in every scene. Supposedly he’s wanted to play a Viking for ages, and basically willed this movie into existence, and it is clear in every scene that he was made for this. Balancing him opposite the always wonderful Anya Taylor-Joy, playing Olga as his love interest, is a great shift in the characters’ motivations and does so much for them and the film. Taylor-Joy is another you almost feel doesn’t get enough screentime, but its just because she brings so much to her performance that you really just stay enamored. Lastly I’ll touch on Claes Bang, who unfortunately is getting the short end of the stick in my descriptions here, but its only because he isn’t as epic on screen as some of his co-stars, but still puts in amazing work as the target of Amleth’s revenge. Its hard to understate how much the whole ensemble here really makes this movie, and I could ramble for pages, but I won’t bore you with it because I think you get the picture.

Rating: 10/10


I didn’t know I needed a beautiful and bloody art house Viking epic in my life, but this film really convinced me otherwise. If you are a fan of cinema, of horror, of Shakespearean epics, or even just mythology I highly recommend this. It is one of the best big screen experiences I’ve had since the pandemic, and it is one that everyone will be still talking about in a year from now when it comes to award season. The Oscars really don’t mean all that much to me, but let that at least be a sign that this is one you need to have on your list to seem, and you don’t want to miss it on the big screen.

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