The Northman: a movie review by Alex First

April 20, 2022 by Alex First
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Viking mythology gets a workout in Robert Eggers’ The Northman. Eggers is co-writer with Sjon (Lamb) and directs the bloodthirsty piece.

It is AD895 and King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) returns from war to be greeted by his wife, Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman) and young son Amleth (Oscar Novak).

War-Raven hides a deep physical wound, but he is intent on seeing his son undertake a spiritual coming of age ceremony with him.

Ambushed on their way home, War-Raven is set upon by his ambitious brother, Fjolnir (Claes Bang) and his ruthless gang.

To Amleth’s horror (as he is watching from behind a rock), Fjolnir beheads War-Raven.

Although Amleth is subsequently chased, he makes his getaway and vows to avenge his father’s death and free his mother, who is kidnapped.

Years later, strong and tall, Amleth (played by Alexander Skarsgard) is a Norse warrior raiding Slavic villages, where a seeress reminds him of his pledge.

He learns that Fjolnir has himself been usurped and is living in Iceland, engaging slaves whom he works hard.

Amleth steals on board a slave ship, where he meets a young woman, Olga of the Birch Forest (Anna Taylor-Joy), well versed in psychologically outsmarting her captors.

The pair becomes a couple as Amleth remains driven by his hatred for Fjolnir, but a shock awaits him.
Unadulterated nonsense. From virtually the moment The Northman started, I wanted it to end.

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Eggers’ films are an acquired taste.

I quite appreciated the black and white film The Lighthouse (2019), but not so much The Witch (2015) and I am afraid I found his latest offering boring, excessively violent and terribly long.

The script was atrocious and the acting pedestrian.

Save for a single twist, the plotting is transparent.

A number of the accents didn’t work for me. They simply made the players difficult to understand.

I am bewildered as to what Nicole Kidman was thinking accepting such a role.

Early on in the piece, father and son crawling around a cave howling like wolves sums up how preposterous the whole thing was.

To that, add a layer of voodoo magic.

At times, I felt Eggers dined out on the violent confrontations.

The Northman presents as an epic story of vengeance, which didn’t deserve epic treatment.

Rather, it required a rewrite, more character development and far less predictability.

The Northman (MA) – 137 minutes

Rated MA, The Northman scores a 2 out of 10.

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