Fans of director Robert Eggers will not be disappointed in his latest film “The Northman,” an epic Viking revenge saga that stays true to his vision and style. This extremely violent, bloody, and gory film is gorgeously crafted, the performances are masterful, and the care taken to make it as historically accurate as possible is something to be commended.
Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak) is just a child when his father (Ethan Hawke) is murdered by his uncle (Claes Bang), who kidnaps the boy’s mother (Nicole Kidman). The young boy escapes, but swears to avenge his father, save his mother, and kill his uncle.
Twenty years later, an adult Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) has become a warrior Viking, tearing through villages on a fighting and murdering rampage. When he learns where his mother and uncle are living, the man disguises himself as a slave and goes to work on their farm. There he meets the ethereal witch Olga of the Birch Forest (Anya Taylor-Joy), a fellow slave who also possesses magical powers. After suffering for years, Amleth finally gets revenge on those who wronged him so long ago.
Brutality rages in this film, and it’s not for weak stomachs. Blood, guts, and beheadings continue throughout. This is one of the most intensely violent films I have ever seen, and at times it’s a challenge to watch. Eggers seamlessly incorporates aspects of Viking mythology, from their spiritual beliefs to historical customs. Mysticism and fantasy in the form of valkyries and witches exist in his story, as does the savagery of their way of life in 10th century Iceland.
It’s evident that the filmmaking team took their time doing exhaustive research on what it was like at the time in order to make the film as historically accurate as possible. For that reason, it feels like being transported back to the dark, barbaric past. The film gives a real sense of what it must have been like to be alive during that time. The attention to detail is incredibly precise, and the costumes and makeup are jaw-dropping.
The performances are phenomenal across the board, from Skarsgård’s primal fury to Kidman’s wicked-tongued mother, there isn’t a dud here. The casting is excellent, and everyone fits their part.
The film dives into strange and artsy territory, which may try the patience of viewers expecting no-holds-barred historical action. There are plenty of exciting scenes of bloodthirsty battles, but the script has some unexpectedly thoughtful moments as well.
“The Northman” is a ferocious, epic tale that is beautifully brutal.