“The Northman”: If you Seek Revenge…


Source: Focus Features

Will Teare

Director: Robert Eggers

Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor Joy, With Ethan Hawke, Wilem Dafoe and Björk

Release Date: April 22, 2022

Rating: 4/5 

After shocking us with The Witch and doubling down on that shock with the modern masterpiece The Lighthouse, Robert Eggers is back. But, rather than the period horror/dramas, Robert returns with a brutal action-filled Viking epic in his largest movie to date. 

Prince Amleth(Oscar Novak) is a young prince just coming of age in a sizable kingdom in the cold of Northern Europe. When Amleth’s father (Ethan Hawke) is brutally killed by his uncle (Claes Bang), his mother (Nicole Kidman) is kidnapped, and the kingdom is rendered under his traitorous uncle’s rule, Amleth has no choice but to flee. 20 years later, Amleth(Alexander Skarsgård) is more beast than man as a Viking berserker until he meets a Seeress (Björk) who reminds him of his nearly forgotten quest and tells him of his fate. Accompanied by a Slavic witch(Anya Taylor-Joy), Amleth will stop at nothing to accomplish his mantra, “Avenge father, save mother, kill Fjölnir.” 

Eggers pulls together an astounding cast and follows that up with a genuinely God-given skill to bring an absolutely top-notch performance from all of them. Of course, we could chalk it up to his almost Fincherian levels of dedication to getting the perfect take. Still, I’d like to take the time to highlight some performances. 

Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe have surprisingly little screen time despite being absurdly big names with years of experience to boast, but they play it well. Next, second-time Eggers collaborator Anya Taylor-Joy comes in with another banger performance, though not a serious stand-out. Nicole Kidman, however, now she’s a stand-out. She delivers one hell of a monologue at one point with a scene that’s a particular turning point in the film. The script’s intensity for that part relies entirely on her delivery, and she does it insanely well. I haven’t been this wow-ed by a Nicole Kidman performance in, well, I think ever. To be honest, I’m not entirely well versed in the whole filmography of Ms. Kidman. Still, I can confirm that she put on a better performance in that scene of The Northman than the entirety of her screen time in Being the Ricardos

Source: Focus Features

Alexander Skarsgård, although not the most outstanding performance I’ve ever seen or anything, his physical acting is something to really marvel at. It’s not that he trained absurdly hard for this movie and really looks like he had some kind of superhero-level training regiment; it’s the fact that he has to present such an intense physicality. For example, there’s this unbelievable scene where we see Amleth and the berserkers participating in a pre-raid cult-like ritual involving a shaman “turning them into beasts.” We see Skarsgård (and the berserkers, for that matter) become some sort of wolf-bear monster all in his face and the way he postures himself. He never even runs toward his enemies. Instead, he slowly approaches with a hunched neck, even throwing in growls and roars for good measure. He feels like he’s a “force of nature” because I’m convinced he’s nothing less than the divine will of the Æsir, and that’s all due to his performance. 

The Northman hails from a genre we really don’t get enough of anymore. Our last sword and sandal type epic we got to see was Dune this past October, but besides that, it’s challenging to think of a recent one. But even then, it’s a sci-fi book adaptation. Let’s bring original blockbusters back; let’s bring epics back. While we are at it, let’s bring back swords in movies; swords are always cool. Speaking of swords and sandals, I’d like to take this time to honor the crew for putting together what some historians have been calling the most historically accurate Viking film ever made. This movie is insanely accurate despite the costumes, hair, and even the lack of cheesy two-horned Viking helmets (despite the dabs of magic/valkyrie imagery here and there).  

Speaking of realism, this movie is unabashedly willing to show you every intestine spooled over the battlefield, every bludgeoned skull, every cut, gash, and sword slash. This movie is brutal, and that brutality is needed and entirely earned by the time we wrap up. This is just a reminder that this isn’t for the faint of heart in the slightest.

Although The Northman is the next in a long line of Hamlet-like stories we’ve seen since stories were invented, Eggers’s masterful eye and style of bringing a period film to life with dashes of genre and mysticism will never cease to amaze me. But what amazes me more is that this $90 million auteur-driven nordic saga-inspired Viking blockbuster actually exists in this cinematic landscape we live in today. I’ve been quite worried about the future of cinema recently. I will continue to be for the foreseeable future, but between this, The Batman, Everything Everywhere All at Once, and a few select others? I have hope. Please go watch this movie

Rating: 4/5