From visionary director Robert Eggers comes The Northman, an action-filled epic that follows a young Viking prince on his quest to avenge his father’s murder.
Robert Eggers has carved a niche out for himself as one of the most interesting filmmakers working today, with movies such as ‘The Witch’ and ‘The Lighthouse’ attracting a lot of critical acclaim despite their less than mainstream subject matters. ‘The Northman’ is his most conventional film to date, yet it retains Eggers singular vision and unique visual approach that makes this so much more than the traditional vengeance story its opening moments may suggest. Set in the 9th and 10th centuries, this is the story of Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård), the heir to his father Aurvandill’s (Ethan Hawke) throne, who is set on a course of vengeance to take his revenge against his traitorous uncle (Claes Bang). It’s based on the Scandinavian legend of Amleth, which in turn was the inspiration for Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’.
After the opening moments we move forward in time to join Amleth as an adult, where he is now accompanying a band of Vikings as a violent berserker. When he hears word that his uncle now resides in exile in Iceland, he sets off to find him by joining a group of slaves who are being transported to join him. Thus, Amleth’s plan of vengeance is put into action, with a bit of support from Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), another slave travelling on his ship. If ever a man was meant to play a viking, then that man is Alexander Skarsgård, and he is utterly mesmerising here as the single minded protagonist. I particularly liked Anya Taylor-Joy and Claes Bang from the supporting cast, although found Nicole Kidman (as Amleth’s mother) to be an unusual fit for the setting. The story unfolds much as you’d expect but the thrills of ‘The Northman’ are in the ways in which the story is told, with Eggers drawing in elements of Norse mythology, arresting visuals and sheer commitment to brutal and intense violence. This is not for the faint hearted it would be fair to say!
‘The Northman‘ gripped me from start to finish and even as it perhaps falters when it tries to explore how Amleth’s quest for vengeance is destroying his soul, this is a pretty stunning piece of work from a director at the peak of his powers. As someone who really disliked ‘The Witch’ at the time, seeing this and ‘The Lighthouse’ has confirmed that I really need to rewatch it. In the meantime, let’s hope directors like Robert Eggers continue to get money to make interesting movies and don’t get sucked up by the superhero moviemaking machine.
Directed By: Robert Eggers
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Björk, Oscar Novak, Kate Dickie, Gustav Lindh, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Murray McArthur, Ian Whyte, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, Olwen Fouéré and Ralph Ineson