The Northman

The Northman ★★★

Not to say the genre doesn't work if it hits familiar beats, but this is so faithful to the core concept of what revenge movies are that it doesn't give the audience anything terribly complex to work with. Fjölnir has it coming. Amleth will deny how fleeting it is. Everyone is powerless to stop where this is heading. Time and circumstance may shift the scales of justice but the inciting incident will hold power over all other contextual discrepancies. Lot of gore along the way. It got me to buy a ticket, I'm not immune, but this takes so few risks to alienate or deviate from the expected that it's curious why they bothered. Eggers peppers it with tiny punches of mysticism and humour that made me fall in love with THE LIGHTHOUSE, but THE NORTHMAN lacks that films' inspired soulfulness - this rang closer to History Channel re-creation than a personal work of distinction, less improvisational and lived-in than its peers.

Which is not to say Eggers doesn't make the most of the script's limitations, delivering bloody thrills without overwhelming with sadism. For a movie that has dog murder and rampant sexual assault at its margins, this doesn't throw a lot of mud the audience will feel they need to wash off afterwards. Also difficult to beat a good time that ends with a climactic volcano fight - most any movie heading in that direction is bound to have their head screwed on straight about something. Still, not the most in love with performances throughout - Hawke felt like he was showing up as a favour just to boost the film's production budget. Kidman only seems to pop because she's been dragging her own rep through some dreadful shows & movies for the better part of a decade now. Taylor-Joy radiates more star qualities than Skaarsgard but neither really take the film by the reigns off it's predestined path. Bjork and Dafoe are the few that get the assignment, which is to unsettle and take us far away from where we expect this to go. In spite of their effort, THE NORTHMAN wants its revenge and dutifully gets it, regardless of how empty it will feel.

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