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The Northman (15)

Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Claes Bang, Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman
Genre: Action
Author(s): Sjon, Robert Eggers
Director: Robert Eggers
Release Date: 15/04/2022
Running Time: 137mins
Country: US
Year: 2022

As a flaxen-haired youth, Amleth is devoted to his father, King Aurvandil War-Raven. Treachery consigns the king to Valhalla and Amleth watches helplessly as his duplicitous uncle Fjolnir seizes the throne. Amleth vows revenge as he rows out to sea to escape knife-wielding assassins. Many years later, Amleth smuggles himself aboard a prisoner ship bound for Fjolnir's fractured tribe in Iceland. En route, Amleth meets captive Olga and they forge a pact to bring down his murderous uncle.


LondonNet Film Review

The Northman (15) Film Review from LondonNet

It’s bitterly cold up north – specifically 9th-century Scandinavia – in writer-director Robert Eggers’ slow-burning and morally ambiguous thriller, inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Norse legend. Shot on location in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, The Northman reunites the American filmmaker with Anya Taylor-Joy and Willem Dafoe, stars of his award-winning films The Witch and The Lighthouse, and with regular cinematographer Jarin Blaschke. Their mastery of foreboding shadows and natural light, epitomised by a fluid single take of Vikings storming a fortified outpost and massacring menfolk, creates striking yet horrific tableaux of a torched barn filled with screaming women and children and mutilated naked bodies pinned to a hut as an omen of angered gods…

Warmer, golden hues of candlelit interiors contrast with muted earth tones of wind- and snow-swept vistas where a decapitated horse lies perpetually frozen and cawing ravens wheel ominously in overcast sky. Alexander Skarsgard and co-star Taylor-Joy are exposed in every sense, including dramatically necessary full-frontal nudity to deter an imminent sexual assault with a demonstration of menstrual blood. Mood and mythology overwhelm a simplistic revenge plot co-written by Eggers and Icelandic author Sjon to inflate the running time beyond what feels comfortable, providing us with a physical ordeal in tandem with characters’ gruelling odysseys through mud and mire.

As a flaxen-haired youth, Amleth (Oscar Novak) is devoted to his father, King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke), who rules with a strong hand and the unwavering support of wife Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman). Court jester Heimir (Dafoe) provides ribald comic relief and oversees a coming-of-age ritual to anoint Amleth as heir apparent. Treachery consigns the king to Valhalla and Amleth watches helplessly as his treacherous uncle Fjolnir (Claes Bang) seizes the throne. “I will avenge you father, I will save you mother, I will kill you Fjolnir,” declares Amleth as he rows out to sea to escape knife-wielding assassins.

Many years later, Amleth (now played by Skarsgard) smuggles himself aboard a prisoner ship bound for Fjolnir’s fractured tribe in Iceland. En route to a destiny foretold by a seer (Bjork), Amleth meets resourceful captive Olga (Taylor-Joy) and they forge a pact to bring down his murderous uncle in the shadow of a slumbering volcano. “Your strength breaks men’s bones,” she hisses. “I have the cunning to break their minds.”

The Northman is an ambitious and technically dazzling tale of power and succession set in a time of mysticism and human sacrifice where Skarsgard’s strapping avenger meets betrayal with a sharp blade and a colder heart. A blood-soaked final act feels disjointed but Eggers powers through like his tortured protagonist. Kidman has only one meaty scene but she seizes it by the jugular, affirming King Aurvandil’s fatherly advice to always heed the power behind the glittering crown.

– Kim Hu


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