The Northman follows Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard) on his bloody quest for revenge against his uncle, Fjolnir (Claes Bang). As a child, Amleth witnessed the murder of his father, King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke), by Fjoinir’s hand, narrowly escaping being murdered himself and vowing to avenge his father and save his mother, Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman).
The story picks up some years later in Eastern Europe where Amleth, now a berserker, is helping his raiding group massacre a village. Following the slaughter, he sees Odin’s ravens, and a witch (Bjork) appears to remind him of his promise of vengeance for his father’s murder. Fjolnir now lives in Iceland with his mother, having lost the kingdom shortly after assassinating the king, so Amleth steals aboard a ship bound for Iceland as a slave and forms a bond with Olga of the Birch Forest (Anya Taylor-Joy). Olga, also a witch, agrees to help Amleth on his quest and he proves himself to be a valuable slave during the day while hunting for the weapon that will slay his uncle in the evening.
After obtaining this magical sword that can only be used at night, he terrorizes his uncle and family. But, Amleth has principles and won’t kill women or children. He briefly ponders a life with Olga away from Iceland but still decides to go ahead and avenge his father in order to save his mother. After a not-so-surprising reveal, Amleth and Fjolnir meet for a final battle at the gates of hell.
Does that plot sound incredibly familiar, maybe, like a specific play by Shakespeare? Well, that’s because this was a classic, bloody and brutal revenge tale. Director Robert Eggers dug into Norse Mythology and uses symbolism to propel the story forward. Eggers made the wise decision to incorporate mystical paganism with the witches and trippy visions, though I did expect Eggers to go this route, something which I appreciated as a fan of mythology. The film felt very authentic from a historical perspective; it was evident that extensive research went into the film.
Playing a Northman is nothing new for Skarsgard. Thinking about it, yeah, the characters of Amleth and Eric in True Blood have many similarities. Both were Viking princes, had a few family members killed, and shed copious amounts of blood. Eric Northman is what I would consider Viking-lite. Amleth was viscerally brutal and more than a little unhinged in berserker mode. Honestly, no other actor could have played Amleth in my mind.
This film won’t be for everyone. The comparisons to Gladiator (2000) are pretty fair, and if you did like Gladiator, you’ll most likely like the Northman. That being said, this is a very manly movie. There are a lot of scenes with men yelling, growling, and some interpretive dancing too. It does get grating after a bit, especially at the end, during the final naked volcano duel but if you can get through that, it’s a great, engaging historical epic film.
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I’m a Data Analyst, from the land of Matthew McConaughey. I’m an avid movie-goer and love seeing films in theaters. My most recent favorite films are Good Time, Only Lovers Left Alive, TENET, and England is Mine. When I’m not at the movies, I’m either reading or watching obscene amount of true crime and historical documentaries.