B_Jackfilms’s review published on Letterboxd:
“I will avenge you, Father! I will save you, Mother! I will kill you, Fjölnir!”
After only three films, Robert Eggers has already become a master at depicting different time-periods in human history onscreen. His use of world-building is remarkable and it’s one of the reasons why his films are so interesting to watch. You get transported back to 1630s New England in The VVitch, the 1890s in The Lighthouse, and the 10th century in this, his most recent film which takes place in the Viking era. The mise-en-scéne here is fantastic. It almost feels like cinematographer Jarin Blashke just travelled back in time and captured events of this historic era on camera. The production design is marvellous and I love the use of practical sets. The creative hair, makeup and costume design further brings this Viking setting to life.
Although you’d still be able to tell that this film had been directed by Robert Eggers (mainly due to the historical accuracy, and also because there are many disturbing and gory moments), it does feel quite different to his previous work. This film is a lot larger in scale when compared to The VVitch and The Lighthouse. While Eggers’ first two projects are both confined to a single location for their whole runtimes, The Northman is spread across the vast landscapes of Iceland. In contrast to The Lighthouse which has a big focus on the dialogue between its two main characters, this film is much more driven by its scope, and the journey that Amleth, the protagonist, goes on to exact his revenge on the man who murdered his father. As a result of this, the dialogue is definitely not as memorable as in the former, but I’m not particularly bothered by this, because it clearly wasn’t Eggers’ main focus this time around. One slight issue I do have with the writing though surrounds the overall story. Although I still found the plot very captivating, it does feel a bit unoriginal at times. It bears a few similarities to other revenge-based films, such as Gladiator. I won’t get into what these are in order to avoid spoilers, but it was just something that I noticed whilst watching it.
In terms of performances, Alexander Skarsgård is definitely the standout. He delivers an astonishing lead performance as vengeance-fuelled Amleth. His physical transformation is very impressive, because he appears more like a beast than a man in the film. Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy and Claes Bang are all brilliant in the roles of Queen Gudrún, Olga of the Birch Forest, and Fjölnir respectively. This film has some very brutal fight sequences, which feel suitable for the time period. Lastly, Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough provide a powerful score.
Overall, The Northman is a crazy Viking revenge story from Robert Eggers. It features astonishing performances, brutal fight sequences, a captivating plot, strong directing, marvellous production design, fantastic hair/makeup and costume design, excellent cinematography, and a powerful score. However, the story can occasionally feel a bit unoriginal, due to it being slightly similar to other films dealing with the theme of revenge.
My score: 8/10