Gritty, brutal, and cinematically captivating, The Northman is one powerhouse of a viking revenge film. And if you’re not sold on “viking revenge film,” best to move on because you’re not welcome here.
Directed by Robert Eggers, the director of The Witch and The Lighthouse, The Northman feels very much like a viking movie made by the director of The Witch and The Lighthouse. Certainly more mainstream than either of those films but still quite weird at times, the picture couples an intense viking legend–the basis for Shakespeare’s Hamlet–with Eggers’ cinematic mastery.
Every scene is rich with detail, and not only in what you see. As beautiful, colorful, and textured as the visuals are, Eggers delivers a full experience thanks to the engrossing, pulsing score by Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough and the transfixing audio work, which extends to the growling, otherworldly tone in which many of the characters speak.
Alexander Skarsgård is fantastic as Amleth, a fractured beast of a man raised with hate and vengeance in his heart, while Anya Taylor-Joy, star of The Witch, is excellent as well. Nicole Kidman isn’t given much screen time, but she makes herself felt when given the opportunity.
Acting aside, though, The Northman is a movie made by a filmmaker who operates on another level from most other directors–and it shows. The cinematography and editing, by Eggers’ longtime collaborators Jarin Blaschke and Louise Ford, respectively, are incredible; I’m not one to fixate on the technical aspects of filmmaking, but it’s nearly impossible to not notice the work on display here. The visuals bring to life the story, but Eggers’ also lets the story dictate the style on display; this is an artist’s movie, but no moment is self-indulgent, over-stylized, or unnecessary.
Intense, occasionally violent, and at times incredibly dark, The Northman is a badass piece of filmmaking–and easily one of the best movies of 2022.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.