Review: The Northman

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An epic, brutal tale of revenge told through phenomenal performances by key cast members, Robert Eggers’ The Northman is certainly his most straightforward and accessible film, complete with stunning visuals and a score that will amp up the entire audience.

Prince Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) returns to avenge his late father (Ethan Hawke), killed by the King’s brother (Claes Bang). The journey to fulfill his destiny thrusts him into continuous danger while introducing him to a mystical slave (Anya Taylor-Joy) who aligns with him. Skarsgård was born for roles like this, his ability to invoke emotion at the drop of a dime before flipping back to a vicious savagery unrivaled. Anya Taylor-Joy is devilishly good in her role, but it is Nicole Kidman who steals the show as Amleth’s mother, a performance that becomes appropriately unhinged and wildly entertaining. Much like many of Eggers’ previous films, there is a lot of questionable dialogue that bleeds authenticity, but may not be the most understandable for audiences. Where The Northman differs, however, is in the intentionality of the scenes that inform the overall plot. Unlike The Lighthouse, where many questioned what actually was happening for much of the runtime, The Northman follows a clear map from start to finish, a mix of Viking fable and empathetic humanity that truly forms something special.

My only knock against the otherwise riveting script is that Amleth’s journey from ruthless howling killer to a man determined to kill his uncle is sudden and underdeveloped; Björk is convincing in her minor role, but a more fleshed-out arc would have benefited the overall story more. In fact the whole depiction of this Viking gang we see in the first part of the film goes largely unexplained. This is quickly forgotten, however, due to the violent, bloody fight scenes set upon scenic locations that evoke beauty and transport the audience into the setting, the barbaric realities of the time. Eggers delivers an action thriller for the ages, his best all-around execution of a film. It isn’t for the faint of heart with savage killings a thread through much of the film and prominently displayed, but you’ll find yourself rooting for Skarsgård as a he wields his sword. 

The Northman hits theaters on Friday, April 22nd, 2022.

Rating: 4/5

Photo from Focus Features

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