The Northman review – a violent no-holds-barred revenge tale

By Louie Fecou
Published: April 30, 2022 (Last updated: February 19, 2023)
The Northman review - a violent no-holds-barred revenge tale


A violent no holds barred revenge tale, that reaches for epic status and nearly makes it.

This review of The Northman is spoiler-free. 

Robert Eggers is behind the camera in this historical epic that seems to have appeared on cinema screens with little fanfare. This in itself is strange, as the film is by nature a bombastic and energetic presentation that revels in its own energy, and embraces everything that such a film can represent.

Apparently, Eggers and the film’s lead Alexander Skarsgard wanted to do a Viking movie together, so The Northman became a labor of love for both artists.

The story of revenge is a well worn one, but the setting and mystical presentation of the themes elevate this production for audiences that may initially feel they have seen this story done before, and despite the criticism from some that the accents are a bit weird, the performances here are well above average with the no-compromise direction producing a visceral and often shocking finished product.

READ: 10 Best Medieval Movies you must watch

With a cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, and Anya Taylor-Joy, it seems incredible that with a budget of just 70 million, the film pulls itself together so satisfyingly. Admittedly a lot of the bigger names here provide just slightly more than cameos, but you can’t help wonder if some of the cast worked here for cheap.

Skarsgard plays Amleth, the Northman of the title, who witnesses the murder of his father by his uncle, in a Shakespearian style plot point, and is forced to flee as his uncle takes control of his brother’s land. He vows revenge, and we follow his journey towards a final confrontation.

The film manages to juggle all the tropes you might expect in this kind of film, with some very stylistic directorial flair that elevates this to a more artistic production than you might expect. If you are of a certain age, you may remember the Robin of Sherwood TV show from the 80s. The show reimagined the Robin Hood legend and used mysticism and magic to add new nuances to it. Well watching The Northman, you get a similar feeling. Basically, this is a violent tale of revenge, yet we are presented with witches, visions, and often MCU levels of action sequences, that blend perfectly. The balance between some truly violent imagery and the more fantastical lifts the screenplay away from your basic historical adventure into a more complex narrative.

Exciting and sprawling, The Northman is almost a throwback to an earlier time of movie-making, with a story of redemption, presented in a fascinating and spellbinding way. Impossible to turn away from, this movie has style and substance and is probably in my top ten films of the year so far. Its one problem is perhaps its run time, which could have possibly been trimmed down just slightly to tighten up the final act, but apart from that, this is a triumph of action-adventure filmmaking that you should check out if you like this type of thing.

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