With the critically acclaimed ‘The VVitch’ and ‘The Lighthouse’, director Robert Eggers has made a name for himself and has certainly become one of the most exciting talents within Hollywood. Excelling in period pieces so far, Eggers is back with his most ambitious film yet in ‘The Northman’, a Hamlet-inspired Viking epic that steps away from the more intimate settings within his first features. Going bigger than ever, Eggers only builds upon his fantastic reputation with a beautifully brutal film that is remarkable in every regard.
Splitting up into several different chapters, ‘The Northman’ wastes no time in setting its tone immediately, with an incredibly intense prologue that sets the standard. There’s a lot to take in and marvel at immediately as Eggers expertly sets up the characters and story, whilst embracing the culture and mixing it with certain fantasy elements. The introduction to this story genuinely feels like a workout with the sheer intensity drawn from the actor’s commitment, the pulsating score and the general route of the narrative, leaving you to take a deep breath once the second title card rolls up. This is a relentless film that nails the time period with a whole host of captivating, exhilarating and, even at times uncomfortable scenes that keep you hooked throughout.
Alexander Skarsgård has spent years trying to get a Viking story off the ground with it being a clear passion project of the Swede. This is an incredibly physical performance from Skarsgård, reminiscent of Leonardo Di Caprio’s Oscar-winning turn in ‘The Revenant’, with the actor being put through the ringer with a lot of long takes. The commitment on show from Skarsgård is second to none with the actor also succeeding in the more sombre moments, giving the character a key depth amidst all the chaos. Skarsgård is not alone in this category, with several performances that are at the highest level, with Anya Taylor Joy shining as usual with Willem Dafoe giving a madly intense performance that only he could provide.
This intensity carries on and is strongest throughout the many battle scenes, most notably the first Viking raid we see Skarsgård’s Amleth be a part of. This scene is exquisitely handled as a real brutal showcase of the Viking strength, but it is the motion camerawork that will cause any audience to be utterly in awe. Eggers and his cinematographer Jarin Blaschke combine excellently to showcase a visual masterclass, with real sets, locations and lighting going a long way to creating a great deal of authenticity. There are no wasted details in this film, with aid of historians to keep historical accuracy, with each frame perfectly crafted to Eggers image. Blaschke’s work here is magnificent, with many memorable frames crafted within the Irish landscape, with the true use of natural filmmaking going a long way.
As a revenge story within the recent wave of Viking media, the story isn’t exactly the freshest however the way it’s presented in cinematic form allows it to be unmatched. Eggers has gone three for three with masterpieces with his unofficial ‘The’ trilogy being the most impressive run of films in modern times. Eggers is only going to continue rising as a filmmaker, with studios giving him more faith and the director not skimping on the more unusual aspects of his filmmaking. ‘The Northman’ probably is his most accessible work to date but still contains a true feeling that this is an auteur’s vision, a rarity within most mainstream releases. Brutal yet intense, ‘The Northman’ is one of the finest films you shall see all year.
Written By Angus McGregor