The Northman Review – Revenge is a Dish Best Served Viking Cold

The Northman

Between Vikings: Valhalla and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Vikings have become a popular subject in recent years. However, we haven’t seen Vikings realistically depicted on screen. That’s something that star Alexander Skargård and director Robert Eggers try to rectify in The Northman. With The Witch and The Lighthouse under his belt, Northman shows that Robert Eggers has the skill to direct both small and large-scale movies. At the same time, it’s also a return to form after his godawful second film, The Lighthouse. However, The Northman, as epically violent as it is, is still not a film that’ll appeal to everyone.

The Northman follows Amleth, a young prince who looks up to his father, King Aurvandil War-Raven. However, his world is turned upside-down when King Aurvandil is murdered. He flees the country and vows to seek revenge on those who killed his father. Now older, Amleth returns to his homeland to enact the vengeance he swore when he was a child.

The film is a slow-burner that walks the tightrope between an arthouse movie and a period epic. This deliberate hybrid adds to the surreal, almost dreamlike feel of The Northman. Like many of Eggers’ work, every shot in the movie exudes atmosphere and beauty. In the film, the shots of the Icelandic and Irish mountains and forests are so sweeping that you can’t help but feel the scope of Amleth’s journey for revenge. 

The Northman contains a special Viking magic that invites audiences to lose themselves in this slow-burn odyssey of vengeance.

However, Eggers never focuses entirely on the style that we lose track of the plot or the characters. Yes, The Northman is still a “weird” arthouse-type movie in that it’s unorthodox, but that doesn’t make it any less enthralling. Calling this movie a visual masterpiece doesn’t really do justice to what Eggers did with this film. The movie is psychedelic, but it also wrestles with notions of loyalty, honor, and destiny.

Unfortunately for a particular audience, the movie doesn’t quite match the feel of the Braveheart tone in the trailers. The narrative offers little in the traditional sense of adventure or battles you might expect from this kind of story. Nevertheless, rather than deferring to traditional period epics, The Northman sets out to make new ones. The epic battles and action sequences are few and far between, but the film will reward viewers’ patience with an epic final clash near an erupting volcano.

Though there is some brutal and bloody imagery in Northman, Eggers leaves plenty of room for character building. It gives us more time with the characters and highlights the stellar performance of the cast. Starting off as a tortured individual, Amleth ultimately transforms into a better version of himself, and Alexander Skargård’s career-defining performance realistically captures Amleth’s character arc. Anya-Taylor Joy also continues to shine here as the young actress getting better with nearly every project she’s a part of.

Overall, The Northman flirts the fine line between period spectacle and arthouse drama, but the combination of the two is intoxicating. It’s rich in visuals and storytelling, and the film also continues Robert Eggers’ diverse filmography that has seen him jump between genres his entire career. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

The Northman hits theaters on Aprill 22nd.

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