‘The Northman’ Movie Review: Brutal, Beautiful, and Weird

The Northman

I’m no stranger to Robert Eggers’ films. They’re all beautiful and brilliant in their own right. But they’re also, pretty weird… and sometimes incredibly uncomfortable. For example, I accidentally watched The Lighthouse with my in-laws on Christmas Eve… one of the most awkward moments of my life to date. Super, super uncomfortable.

This is my simple way of putting a disclaimer of Eggers’ films. They’re works of art. But choose who you watch them with carefully. Don’t be me. Don’t watch one of Eggers’ films with your in-laws.

That being said, let’s dive into The Northman, shall we? The film begins with young Prince Amleth, who is on the cusp of becoming a man, when his father (Ethan Hawke) is brutally murdered by his uncle, who kidnaps Amleth’s mother (Nicole Kidman). Fleeing his island kingdom by boat, Amleth vows revenge.

Two decades later, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) is a Viking berserker raiding Slavic villages, where a seeress reminds him of his vow: to avenge his father, save his mother, kill his uncle. Traveling on a slave ship to Iceland, Amleth infiltrates his uncle’s farm with the help of Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), an enslaved Slavic woman — and sets out to honor his vow.

The Northman Trailer

The Northman Movie Review: What I Did and Didn’t Like

Wow. Where to start. It’s clear that “Viking history” is trending right now with all the films and TV series that are crossing our paths. But The Northman stands out among the rest. Like all of the films from Robert Eggers, this one demands your attention. And it yearns to push your comfort levels in the process.

The Acting

Alexander Skarsgård throws himself into this role, and he delivers an incredible performance. Not only does he look the part, but he does a superb job at portraying muted anger while still retaining enough vulnerability for you to see the things that truly resonate with him.

What resonates with him the most is Olga, played beautifully by Anya Taylor-Joy. She has this ability to bewitch you every time you see her on-screen – regardless of what film or TV series it is. Her work here is no less magical.

The Story

It’s a wild, violent, and bloody narrative that feels as it if it does justice to the genre. The Northman does a beautiful job at combing a Hamlet-esque tale with Viking history and mythology.

The dialogue isn’t anything special, but much of this film is built on emotion and the un-said. The cast (and the script) does a commendable job at character building while the characters are all clearly suffering from their unique type of trauma.

My only problem? It’s just hard to follow. I only knew what was going on about 75% of the time. And things get weird. Like really weird. Not that I don’t appreciate weird because I love weird. I am weird. But this is a different kind of weird. One that I’m honestly still processing.

The Cinematography

Definitely, the most beautiful movie of 2022 I’ve seen so far to date, The Northman is equal parts brutal and breathtaking. Much like The Lighthouse, this film feels like a true work of art.

There’s a tremendous talent with the craft, scope, and skill that went into creating this tale, and it’s apparent in nearly every moment (and angle) of the movie. During a number of scenes, I found myself comparing the film to The 300, and while very different visually – some moments clearly feel inspired by The 300. (Namely speaking about the scene of the charging valkyrie – who doesn’t have braces (had to look this up myself) – she just has teeth carvings. (If that doesn’t give you sympathy pains, I’m not sure what will.)

Overall

If you’ve seen Robert Eggers’ films before, you know what you’re getting into. If you don’t, then the best thing I can say is to be prepared for things to get weird. The Northman is a beautiful film that does justice to the brutal nature of Viking history. But it’s hard to follow at points and it forces a certain level of awkwardness with its viewers. It’s an arthouse film that explores the obsession with revenge, intense violence, and finding love among the supernatural and surreal brutal tale.

The Northman Movie Review:

Grade: C+

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Emma's Geek Girl Blog, Featured, Movie Reviews, Movies

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  1. Oh, wow, Emma, you watched ‘The Lighthouse’ with your in-laws? Yikes! Lol! I imagine that was uncomfortable. Anyhoo – I pretty much agree with you on ‘The Northman.’ I was going to post my review in the Forums but hope it will post here.

    “Well, one of the biggest films that I have heard about in the past six months or so came out tonight and I had to see it, no ifs, ands, or buts! I did make it, but barely, due to some obnoxious traffic. Anyway, I really do not even know where to begin with ‘The Northman’, the much anticipated and talked about Viking film from director Robert Eggers, who also directed the critically acclaimed films, ‘The Lighthouse’ and ‘The Witch’, which in my opinion is one of the creepiest films I have seen since ‘The Exorcist’ (needless to say I can never look at a goat the same way again).

    Let me start with the most obvious thing I think there is about this film and that is that it is visually stunning. I mean it has absolutely beautiful visuals as far the scenery, costumes, set pieces, and even the (much) blood and gore. Not that I would know what the old world would have looked like by any means but I can only imagine Eggers must be close in capturing the era as it just seems realistic. One character in particular who is getting a lot of attention and that is the seeress, played by indie singer, Bjork, and based on some of her album covers and how she has come out dressed on stage, this film was right up her alley. Although she does not appear long in the film, she was captivating for sure.

    The other obvious thing about the movie is that, if you have screen Eggers’ other films, you can tell that this was a vision directed by him. The film work itself and the use of the lighting and scenes and close up all work the same as in his other movies. Not to mention the fact that even this film had a sense of creepiness about it. I don’t know, the themes and things he has come up with and introduced into his films is just odd and, sorry to repeat, creepy. If you want action, blood and gore, revenge and more then you definitely need to see this one. It is sometimes hard to follow – in my opinion – from a plot perspective but it is based on an ancient tale that Shakespeare himself wrote about in ‘Hamlet’, the story of which this film is based on that he supposedly used to write his famous work.

    As far as the actors go, everyone goes all out in this one and they do a great job, especially Alexander Skarsgård. He definitely steals the show and is a commanding presence, no doubt.

    While I am excited I finally got to see this one, I can’t say that I loved it as much I had hoped I would but it is definitely one worth seeing and talking about.”

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