The Northman15¦ Blu-ray, DVD
With only two features under his belt – 2015’s The Witch and 2019’s The Lighthouse - US director Robert Eggers is already gaining a reputation for being one of the directors to work with.
His third feature, much likes his two previous efforts, is a visual tour de force, featuring a story as old as time – revenge.
Having not see his father King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke) for some time, as he had been off on various conquests, young Prince Amieth is happy to see him once again. His happiness is short-lived however, when the king is slayed the following day, with the young Prince barley escaping alive.
Years later and Amieth (Alexander Skarsgård), now a grown man, still only has one thought on his mind, and that is to revenge the death of his father. It doesn’t take him long to track down the culprit either, someone he knows very well, Fjölnir (Claes Bang). But he has to bide his time somewhat as he believes his fate has a particular time and place for this confrontation to finally happen.
It’ll come as no surprise to anyone who has seen his previous work that The Northman is a feature drenched with atmosphere. It’s a dark vision, quite often literally, with muted colours throughout, with some scenes shot in black and white.
It all comes across as being very detailed and authentic, to the dwellings and costumes, to the locales. It’s ironic then that so much focus went on these areas and yet many of the accents are all over the place; some start off with a Scottish lilt before gravitating all the way across to Russia, and that’s with two dialect coaches credited too. Thank Odin for Skarsgård, who no doubt has some Nordic God blood coursing through his veins, who is one of the rare few who actually sounds the part.
And then you have Nicole Kidman, whose face appears to struggle looking the part, or at least, looking like Kidman used to look. She denies having any kind of surgery, but unless this part called for her to wear the face of someone else, there’s something clearly amiss here.
With those niggles aside, The Northman is engrossing. Although it’s fairly reserved, by not going all gung-ho in a Braveheart fashion, it manages to give the moments of extreme violence all the more impact. In that sense, it almost has a Shakespearian model about it, in terms to its approach to dialogue delivery as well as its story of royal betrayal.
There’s also an air of mysticism that creeps over the hills, with the appearance of some very clever crows, keeping a beak on proceedings. Not to mention a diverse and engaging cast that includes Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Defoe and Bjork.
And if you’re a fan of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, there’s a lot of that mythology to appreciate here.
It’s most certainly in keeping with Eggers’ oeuvre, which is promising, as he is yet to be inhaled by the MCU as yet, and for that we must surely be grateful, although we fear it’s only a matter of time, especially as the recent Thor film received mixed reviews.
In the meantime, we should enjoy this title for being yet another intriguing step in the progression of Eggers as a fascinating auteur.