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the northman


starring: alexander skarsgard, anya taylor-joy, claes bang, and nicole kidman


REVIEWER: lyall carter

The Northman follows a young Viking prince on his quest to avenge his father's murder.

Prince Amleth is on the verge of becoming a man when his father is brutally murdered by his uncle, who kidnaps the boy's mother. Two decades later, Amleth is now a Viking who raids Slavic villages. He soon meets a seeress who reminds him of his vow - save his mother, kill his uncle, avenge his father.


From the outset I need to state that I’ve enjoyed director Robert Eggers work in the past. I also like a bit of Shakespeare (Hamlet is based on the Amleth myth - Shakespeare just removed the H from the end of Amleth and smacked it on the front to create Hamlet). I also like a bit of viking warfare. Even though I like all of those things, The Northman kinda falls flat. 


There’s two kinds of themes and tones warring against each other in The Northman. A gritty, sword and sandals revenge pic versus a supernatural, mystical Norse mythological tale. The Northman is essentially trying to be Gladiator AND The Green Knight, but never really commits to either theme. The results are muddled with action that is gritty but not really groundbreaking and supernatural elements that are a distraction instead of adding to the narrative. This leads to a group of characters whose fate you're not really that invested in, despite Skarsgard, Taylor-Joy and the rest of the ensemble giving it their gritty, teeth bared all. 


The Northman is exquisite to look at with sweeping barren vistas, fortified Viking villages, and beautifully rendered supernatural sequences. I’ve read and heard that this is the most accurate depiction of Viking culture ever committed to screen which seems like a really wasted opportunity. With a director with such an impressive track record, an all star cast, and stunning production design it’s a pity that The Northman isn’t a more accessible and engaging film. 


While a stunning portrayal of Viking culture and a superb ensemble cast, The Northman’s narrative isn’t as engaging as it could have been.  


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