The Northman

The Northman ★★★★½

“I will avenge you, Father. I will save you, Mother. I will kill you, Fjölnir.”

The third feature film from director Robert Eggers. The Northman sees Prince Amleth is on the verge of becoming a man when his father (Ethan Hawke) is brutally murdered by his uncle (Claes Bang), who kidnaps the boy's mother (Nicole Kidman). Two decades later, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) is now a Viking who raids Slavic villages. He soon meets a seeress (Bjork) who reminds him of his vow -- save his mother, kill his uncle, avenge his father.

You’ve got to hand it to Universal for allowing distinct auteur established directors such as M. Night Shyamalan, Michael Bay and now Robert Eggers to let loose in all their creative passions and immediately recognisable stylisations recently (all of which also receive cinematic releases exclusively). The fact that this brutally violent, uncompromisingly mythologically centric and wildly intense, brooding Norse tale of revenge, was unleashed on mainstream cinemas worldwide brings me nothing but joy. 

An epic 2 hour 20 minute quest that takes us from Amleth’s childhood and the moment that would drive the boiling hatred that fuels his quest, all the way through to a blistering, ferocious volcano top final clash between an older, wiser and utterly manic Amleth and the man who took everything from him. The implementation of layers upon layers of cryptic (yet always tantalisingly investing) lore that includes witches and valkyries, as well as time spent on the hobbies, everyday life and relationships of the village folk, to flesh out the magnetic slow burn infiltration, manipulation and gruelling dismantling of Fjölnir’s village. 

Replacing the tight claustrophobic nightmare of The Lighthouse, with vast stunningly shot locales. Ranging from wide open fields and hills, icy lakes and rivers, meticulously crafted villages and bursts of stunning dreamlike and nightmare imagery. The lighting and shadow usage is excellent and really adds to to the atmosphere of the piece. Eggers frequently shoots the action in extended tracking shots (the first village raid and the later nighttime raid sequence being the savage standouts), and rarely cuts around, allowing for the bone-crunching, gut slashing, ear biting glory. The score is also a standout of thunderous drums, melodic Tagelharpa (yes, I googled that because I really liked the sound) usage and eerie hums and chants.

Alexander Skarsgård is an absolute beast here. Howling, roaring, pulsating and seething with rage and bloodlust, which makes his moments of quiet thought, fear and passion more impactful and helps craft an engaging and layered protagonist, despite his incredibly straightforward motivation. Anya Taylor Joy’s Olga of the Birch Forest, is a mysterious, sharp tongued almost otherworldly like presence herself. Claes Bang and Nicole Kidman have striking presence’s and both get their striking moments of getting to unleash their intense potential. Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Bjork also all deliver in their minor supporting roles.

The Northman is a staggeringly good Viking tale of revenge (that would not surprise me if it reaches the full five stars on a rewatch). Featuring a fantastic cast lineup and a truly monumental physical and rabid lead performance from Skarsgård. Visceral action, stunning locales and a wholly authentic translation of the time and setting.

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