The Northman Movie Review
By: Justin Hopkins
I went into this movie pretty blind. Running mostly off the trailer. Knowing only very little about Vikings. Only time I have heard the word Northman, was in Hellblade. Nevertheless, the trailer did more then enough to go out and see it opening night. Now, multiple days later, since I needed some time to really think about it, and lose track of days, lets dive in and discuss shall we.
(Blogger Note. A lot of names here have accents. I tried to figure out how to type them, but everything I found did not work. So, my apologies for not spelling your names with the necessary accents.)
After a brief bit of narration, the movie gets started with a young boy, Amleth, seeing his Father, The King, and his men returning to the village. After a successful battle. Racing to tell his Mom and they greet him on arrival. After the celebrations, we see the King had been badly injured. Seeing his time is near. Wanting to die in battle, but also needing to prepare his Son to succeed him. Against her wishes, he takes him to perform a ritual. Bottling his last tear, and swearing to avenge him if he were to fall. Which happens the next day, when a band of men, led by his uncle kills him and tries to kill Amleth. Managing to escape when he cuts off the nose of one of his pursuers. Making it back to the village. Witnessing more of his Uncle’s men killing people, and in his perspective; Kidnap his Mom to be his Uncle’s Queen. When the noseless guy returns. Saying the boy died in the sea. Amleth uses that to slip away by boat. Swearing he would return and avenge his Father, kill his Uncle and save his Mother. Years later, we catch up with him. Now, an adult and a member of a Viking group. On there way to Raid a village. Preparing through a ceremony to help them tap into their animalistic natures before hand, and overwhelm the village. Killing the fighters, enslaving the ones they deem fit and burning everyone else in a fire. That night, he stumbles upon the Seeress. Who tells him his time for vengeance is near. His Uncle’s kingdom has been overrun and is starting anew in Iceland. The Slaves they caught today, are heading there. Refueled by this, he slices his hair short, changes his clothes and brands himself. Sneaking onto the boat after it departs and where I will leave it
They did something very interesting, and that was they did not hold back here. They didn’t try to polish and work around how things were like back then. Going with history. Showing the ceremonies, rituals and how vicious the fights were. Especially, when the Vikings raided the village and how they treated those they defeated. It did have a side effect of, you can’t really get behind anyone. All of the guys are kind of terrible. The Queen has been broken and driven mad by what had been done to her. You get the romance between Amleth and Olga, but her goal is to escape slavery and she is a slave because of Amleth and his berserker group. With that said though, still applaud Robert Eggers and Sjon for seeping so much history of how things were and putting together a fantastic story of Tragedy.
This was shot beautifully. Loved the use of fire and torches to light up everything. Making for some shots that look beautiful, such as when they are preparing for the Raid, and the He witch is silhouetted by the campfire and the warriors getting into mindset, with some awesome music topping it off. While others that looked dirty and gritty. We will get into some issues with the music later, but for what it is worth. The soundtrack was great. The fight scenes were choreographed wonderfully. They were not smooth, but they were frantic and brutal. Being just in your face, win by any means, fights to the death that were fun to watch.
The cast was spot on, with the exception of one. Starting with the positive though. Alexander Skarsgard was great as Amleth. Coming off as a walking death machine. Not just ready to take on any treat, but believe that he can. Nicole Kidman was exceptional. Delivering the twist fantastically. Where she reveals that it was her behind the King’s death. That she was a slave who was forced upon and that was how Amleth was born and being kept around because of that and needed to do something to maintain her life and not go back to slavery. Anya Taylor-Joy was great as Olga of The Birch Forest. Bring the fiery spirit of a slave who was having none of their crap to life. Bjork was fun as The Seeress. Claes Bang, Ethan Hawke, Elliot Rose, and Willem Dafoe were all excellent.
On the flipside of that, we got a mixed and a negative. Starting with the mixed, we got Gustav Lindh as Thorir. When he did not really have to show emotion. Just be smug to the slaves, he was good and when he did. When his friend’s were killed. It was bad and it stood out in the scene.
On the negative side, and I am not just getting old. I loved the soundtrack but when you have people talking, in some really good, but thick accents. Turn it down, just a little. So, you know, I can follow what is being said.
So, this is why it is so late. Really wanted to think this over. Let it stew a bit in my head. Definitely a movie that stays with you long after the credits roll. This was not a movie that is for me. Kind of reminding me of when I reviewed The Huntress a few years ago, and how I passed on grading it. Which is not what I am doing now. Very different circumstances and different movies. Personal feelings aside though. It is a beautifully directed movie. Excellent soundtrack. The cast did a wonderful job at bringing the characters and feel of the movie together. Bringing you back to how things were and weaving a sense of history to it. It is not going to be a movie for everyone, but if you can handle a brutal, tragedy tale. Then you will enjoy this, if not, I would pass on it. Final Grade – A
As always, I hope you enjoyed and….
Thank You For Reading!