Review by Camden Ferrell
After his previous films, The Witch and The Lighthouse, Robert Eggers has become one of the most exciting directors working today. His newest film, The Northman, is undoubtedly his biggest and boldest movie in scope. This is another phenomenal film in the director’s blossoming career. This movie is epic, ambitious, violent, and gorgeous in both its visuals and execution.
Amleth is a Viking prince who is set on a journey of vengeance that spans over many years. After the murder of his father, we see the titular character embark on his quest to quench his thirst for revenge. This premise is nothing new, and it closely resembles that of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but this is still a timeless story that can always be exciting when done properly.
From the start, it’s clear that Eggers hasn’t lost his touch for compelling characters and dialogue. He has always been so dedicated to creating a sense of verisimilitude, and he often achieves this through his rich and poetic dialogue. This movie is no different, and him, along with co-writer Sjón, are able to create interesting characters amongst the Viking-era backdrop.
The acting in this movie is fantastic from everyone involved. This is an extremely talented cast that is typically great in what they have done in the past. It features the likes of Ethan Hawke, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Bjork. They are all great in their respective roles, but leading man, Alexander Skarsgård, commits himself completely to his role. It is equal parts brutal, carnal, and human, and the movie would not have worked without him.
From a visual standpoint, this movie is outstanding. The cinematography is dynamic and captivating, and it enhances the entire film, specifically the action sequences. The movie doesn’t rely on quick cuts and editing to amp up tension. Eggers is able to expertly use long takes to slowly raise the intensity of the film’s numerous battle sequences.
The movie is also executed extremely well. Unlike his previous films, this movie has many moving parts whether it be actors, flying objects, or animals. He is able to block and execute these scenes in a seamless way that feels natural and contributes to the consistent momentum throughout the film. There is a lot going on at any given moment, and a less experienced director might have made a muddled mess from these elements, but Eggers is confident in his execution.
If the movie can be faulted for anything, it’s that it might not be the most accessible movies. While I’d argue that it’s more forgiving than his previous films, some audiences might find themselves either bored or confused with the movie. In typical fashion, Eggers doesn’t make his films too straightforward, and he puts his faith in the audience’s ability to analyze and deduct his intentions. This might not be your average Viking story, but it’s one that will reward those with an open mind.
The Northman is bold, brutal, and bloody. It is relentless in showing the graphic extremes of human emotion throughout this revenge story. It features stunning visuals, a powerful cast, and a tried and tested story. Some might be overwhelmed in more ways than one by this movie, but it’s an ambitious story of epic proportions that is one of the best films of the year so far.
The Northman is in theaters April 22.