Robert Eggers’ The Northman might lack heart, but it’s undoubtedly hard to look away from, with unbridled energy and machismo not seen since the action-movie glory days of the 80s and 90s.
Alexander Skarsgård plays Amleth, a Norseman prince who seeks revenge on the man who killed his father and took his mother away from him when he was a boy. Amleth has spent his whole life building his strength and killing skills while his animosity grew stronger. He takes the guise of an enslaved person under his target, played by Claes Bang, waiting for the right time to strike.
In the process, Amleth and the audience are treated to rich Norse mythology and plenty of blood-soaked violence that’s often not for the faint of heart. Amleth navigates through themes of vengeance, fate, masculinity and family values, stopping at nothing to fulfil his mission in this simple tale.
The straightforward narrative allows director Robert Eggers time to focus on the lead character’s raw masculine prowess alongside stunning visuals. We see Amleth start as a meek prince with a lot to learn about being a man and then jump forward to him as a laser-focused killing machine, willing to do anything to seek revenge on his father’s murderer. What happened in the years between boy and manhood is not important, but what is important is developing the bond between father and son, allowing the audience to connect emotionally; this is where The Northman falters.
The film’s first act builds on the relationship between father and son, which serves as motivation for Amleth’s deadly mission. Sadly, there’s not enough of it to warrant much of an emotional attachment to the character. It’s hard to root for the character, so the film becomes a visual feast without much depth. Many revenge thrillers suffer for the same reason, with The Northman no exception. Thankfully, what the film does right, it does right exceptionally.
The film is stunning to behold, capturing every bit of the audience’s attention. It’s relentless in pace, with something strange and grotesque occurring in every scene. There’s an energy about it that we don’t see too often anymore, which boils down to the performance by Skarsgård and the director going all-in on the ludicrousy of Norse mythology. It’s great, though, and The Northman becomes an experience unto itself.
While it may not pull at anyone’s heartstrings, The Northman is a must-see film for its macho energy, rich mythology and symbolism, and gory violence.
The film is titled Northman, which is also the last name of the Vampire in which Alexander Skarsgård is known for playing in HBO’s True Blood (2008). The role in question is Eric Northman, a 10th century Viking who was turned into a Vampire.