The film begins with a young prince named Amleth, who takes part in a ritual with his wounded father, King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke). The ritual introduces Prince Amleth to the world of manhood. As he enters this new stage of his life, the prince promises to avenge his father if he’s ever murdered or killed in combat. It’s not long until the prince witnesses a tragic betrayal resulting in his father’s brutal murder. With no choice, Prince Amleth flees from home, vowing to return at an older age seeking revenge for his father’s death and attempting to save his mother, Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman).
Jumping forward in time, we see Prince Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard) as an adult taking on the personality of a bloodthirsty werewolf and part of a dangerous, murderous Viking clan. A vision tells Prince Amleth that it’s now the time to return home and hunt those who wronged him and his family. He decides to flee from the Viking clan to dish out slow and painful torment.
The Northman is best described as an action film filled with thrilling and suspenseful moments. It is also a gritty revenge tale filled with unsettling moments that will have viewers on the edge of their seats or perhaps even tensed up. The action here is brutal, dark, gritty and violent. Amleth decides revenge should be slow and toys with those who wronged him first, leading to many big reveals and showdowns along the way.
Directed by Robert Eggers (best known for The Lighthouse and The Witch), some moments feel familiar, especially to The Witch. While some visual moments are familiar, it’s still jaw-dropping to watch, even if certain visions or aspects don’t quite resonate or make sense at first. Action scenes feel raw, and some of the film’s violence shook me, but I was still entertained by what felt like a highly realistic Viking film. I admired the way the director pushed the bar as high as possible. The story attempts to surprise viewers with big reveals, but I never seemed surprised. Most moments are fairly obvious and predictable, but I still enjoyed seeing everything come together and unfold.
Performances here are a complete knockout, and honestly, I can’t fault any of them. Previously, I can’t say I’ve ever been a huge fan of actor Alexander Skarsgard, but here, I can’t deny he has delivered a remarkable performance. He has physically transformed and is rather convincing as a murderous, revengeful Viking. Other performances, including Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke and even a brief appearance from Willem Dafoe, are all unforgettable. The soundtrack is a perfect match to the haunting atmosphere, and the same can be said about the sound effects, which were a major standout. Those who admire great costumes will be impressed with what’s on display.
Overall, Robert Eggers has delivered another stunning film. This film is loaded with beautiful visuals, including dream sequences and beautiful landscapes. The film itself is dark, violent, gritty and brutal, and I was highly entertained for the entire duration, even if some moments flew over my mind at first. Aspects relating to the plot are a little predictable, but I still smiled watching everything unfold from start to finish. Performances are tremendous and can’t be faulted. This feature won’t be for everyone, especially given the many disturbing unsettling moments. Those familiar with the director’s craft and skill will know what to expect, and here the director is playing with a bigger budget than fans have experienced previously. I found myself admiring this film visually, and its story had me by the veins; it’s a wonderful and memorable achievement for cinema.