The Reel Review

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An early 10th century Viking prince embarks on a quest to avenge his father’s murder in this action-packed epic from director Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse). The story is loosely based on the 12th century tale of Amleth, which itself was the inspiration for William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Alexander Skarsgård and Anya Taylor-Joy in The Northman.

The Northman may be the most realistic Viking saga ever made. It is a thrilling, can’t-look-away, assault on the senses, transporting viewers back a thousand years in time to a harsh, unforgiving terrain, a brutal existence and an equally savage people. Eggers, a former production and costume designer-turned-director, again continues his tradition of blending meticulous historical accuracy with realistic period horror.

Ethan Hawke and Murray McArthur in The Northman.

From his clever incorporation of the ancient Old Norse language, to the erupting Hekla volcano and detailed period costumes and traditions, Eggers’ impressive attention to detail makes The Northman a fascinating time capsule for history buffs and fans of Nordic culture. Working alongside Icelandic novelist and frequent Björk collaborator Sjón, Eggers weaves a profoundly epic tale, with harrowing plot twists and heaping amounts of Nordic mysticism, gore and savagery. The Northman is not for the squeamish.

Alexander Skarsgård in The Northman.

Alexander Skarsgård is an outstanding and convincing Amleth, with Eggers’ muse Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) equally riveting as the cunning Russian slave Olga of the Birch Forest, who helps Amleth plot his revenge against his Uncle Fjölnor (Claes Bang) for killing his father, King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke), and whisking his mother, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman), off to Iceland. Viking aficionados, you have finally achieved your grippingly realistic, cinematic Valhalla. Rejoice.

REEL FACTS

• While in The Northman they portray son and mother, Alexander Skarsgård and Nicole Kidman both won Emmys for playing a dysfunctional husband and wife in the HBO drama series Big Little Lies.

Sjón, Anya Taylor-Joy, Robert Eggers and Alexander Skarsgård at an April 5, 2022 screening of The Northman in London.

The Norseman co-writer Sjón also wrote the lyrics for Björk (who appears in The Northman as the sorceress) in her last major film, 2000’s Dancer in the Dark.

• Ironically, Alexander Skarsgård played a 10th century Viking vampire, Eric Northman, in the HBO drama series True Blood.

 

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