Robert Eggers has proven to be a very interesting filmmaker with The Witch (2015) and The Lighthouse (2019). His newest entry to his filmography, The Northman (2022), continues to showcase the unique voice that Eggers brings to the silver screen. This film is both weird and wonderful, bringing some incredible performances, extremely memorable sequences – and one cool Viking movie.
Amleth, the son of the Viking King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke), seeks revenge for his father’s murder and his mother’s abduction. His quest for revenge takes him on a wild path that steels his heart and gives his blades a wealth of blood to quench their thirst. However, only one death matters – and that pursuit drives his every choice.
First of all, how freaking jacked Alexander Skarsgård is in this movie is absolutely insane. This dude is a hulking monster, and his figure is used to show how imposing he is throughout the film. There is an amazing raid sequence all done in one continuous moving shot that starts with quite possibly the most incredible badass move a Viking could do. While it mostly centers on him through the action, the way he is framed in the shot makes him feel like a John Wicklevel boogieman. Framed in doorways or even just standing amongst other people, Skarsgård stands out as a threat to be feared, and it brings so much to this film.
Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Willem Dafoe are among the cast that elevates the material. It’s hard to say who gives the best second performance, as these names all bring much to the film. Taylor-Joy continues to impress, as she brings so much to every role she takes on. Bang has been in a few films I’ve seen, but he shines here. Of course, I’m always in for Hawke, Kidman, and Dafoe.
The story may feel familiar, and those versed in literature, Disney cartoons, or Mel Gibson may be able to pinpoint why. However, Eggers and his co-writer, Sjón, give us plenty of new content to do more than simply make a comparison. Besides, we are often told that every story has been told, and the only thing that changes are the characters and the settings. Eggers may argue it’s also the way we “show” the story, and Eggers finds tons of inventive ways to achieve this feat. It is arguable where he excels and stands out the most. He not only finds interesting places to put the camera but also innovative visuals that are often unsettling or disturbing – but always unforgettable.
The Northman is great, and another entry in 2022 makes this year feel important. While the country returns to theaters, so do the talent who make these movies. Seeing Everything Everywhere All at Once and now The Northman in the same month has been something special. Let’s keep allowing interesting filmmakers to make these wild swings of movies. The Northman earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.