‘The Northman’ Blu-Ray Review: A Relentless & Exciting Historical Thriller
The Northman, which was first released in the U.S. in April, is just as mystifying and visually compelling as writer/director Robert Eggers’ previous two outings, The Lighthouse and The Witch. This film his most accessible yet, however, and delivers a very compelling revenge narrative that confidently knows when to show what the audience is expecting out of that, while also making its own fascinating points on fate, war and spirituality in the process.
The film’s main character, Viking Prince Amleth, is portrayed phenomenally well by child actor Oscar Novak in the film’s stirring introduction, and then by Alexander Skarsgârd, who not only nails the warrior’s imposing physique but also captures the unending fury and rage within him that drives his revenge quest.
Amleth’s journey is a visual marvel throughout. The landscapes of Northern Ireland are substitutes for the Slavic locations of the film, but still display some incredible vistas with period-appropriate villages and sets perfectly intertwined. Eggers also keeps scenes exciting with unpredictable camera motion and absolutely incredible framing. The costume design is also out-of-this-world, steeped in historical influence with a huge variety of fascinating outfits on display.
The co-writer of Eggers’ screenplay, the Icelandic poet and novelist Sjón, contributed dialect styles in dialogue that were always clear but also felt very appropriate for the time periods depicted. The sense of authenticity which permeated the screenplay helped every fantastical element of the film seem even more effective and united in a fully-realized world on the screen.
While the film has some of the most epic action setpieces filmed this year, including an incredible duel in a Volcano and several brutal village raid scenes, the drama of this film is also just as compelling a reason to watch along. Amleth doesn’t simply raid his uncle’s farm for immediate revenge upon arriving there, and seeing his plan develop is a lot more fascinating than you expect it to be.
Without going too much into the story, Amleth’s journey quickly warps into something unexpected as he encounters his mother for the first time in years after believing her to be kidnapped. Nicole Kidman first seems a strange casting choice as Queen Gudrún, but once you see that scene of the film, you’ll be unable to get her words out of your head.
The Northman is a phenomenal and unusual viewing experience that you truly shouldn’t miss out on. Any fans of fantasy or action will find a good time here, and it’s far from a mindless sword and sorcery journey for those that need more to chew on in their films.
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