“The Northman” Movie Review

A grand yet tedious Viking epic

Luis Rios

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Movie poster of The Northman starring Alexander Skarsgård, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang and Ethan Hawke.

After creating exceptional films like The Witch (2015) and The Lighthouse (2019), director Robert Eggers takes on his most ambitious film with The Northman. Where the Scandinavian epic succeeds in set design and character writing, it sadly falters in its slow pacing.  

Like his previous work, most notably The Witch, Eggers does wonders in capturing a most historically accurate display of 10th-century Iceland. From the film’s use of Old East Slavic and Old Norse languages to the beautiful settings throughout, The Northman does wonders in being such a unique experience for its usage of portraying this culture while challenging the senses with psychedelic yet disturbing imagery and sound.  

The plot of The Northman is essentially simple as the protagonist, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) is guided by his desire for vengeance to take down his treacherous Uncle, Fjölnir the Brotherless (Claes Bang). The story, along with its characters, follows a mythological structure as the story is already determined by fate while these characters have distinct traits along with having their hubris. Without spoiling too much of the story, distinct actions taken by Amleth are guided by his hubris of seeking revenge. The issue though lies in how the film paces itself.  

The action in The Northman is also distinct as well for such grueling and gory scenes. There are brutal depictions of mutilation and impalement that feel so realistic and are quite satisfying to watch. The duels in the film are so animalistic that the viewer can feel their blood pumping from seeing these warriors battle each other.  

With being an epic, The Northman has an over two-hour runtime. In that duration, it centers on Amleth from start to finish as he battles and interacts with other prominent characters. The issue that lies with runtime is that it feels like some plot threads go unexplored from a slow pace. Characters like Olga of the Birch (Anya Taylor-Joy), while always being interesting whenever on screen, feels unfulfilled as it initially seemed there was more intended from her introduction.  

Nonetheless, The Northman is a wild ride that will leave you in disbelief once the credits kick in. In Eggers’ third film, he took an ambitious step into a new genre that utilizes dark fantasy elements to challenge the viewer in such a complex viewing experience. While the film doesn’t top his last two films, there is something to admire about how different this adventure film is and how amazing it would be to have more artistic works like this in cinemas.  

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

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