Caleb Johnson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Oh yeah, you KNOW I went to the gym and lifted the shit outta some weights after this.
Robert Eggers has really been impressing me with what he's been able to come up with thus far. "The Witch" and "The Lighthouse" were both phenomenally unique and horrifying, and are two of the best horror films to have come out in the last few years. And once I saw the trailer for "The Northman," I already just knew it was going to be good. It looked more ambitious than either of Egger's previous two films, and it felt more personal to him as well. So needless to say, I was excited.
And yeah, of course I thought it was awesome. I don't think it's as good as "The Lighthouse," technically speaking, (that was my favorite film of 2019, it's one of my favorite horror films of all time, and I'm pretty sure it'll always be my favorite Eggers film). But it's also apples and oranges here. This isn't a horror film. While, yes, it incorporates horror elements here and there, (there's a lot of surprising body horror that was absolutely grotesque, and I loved every minute of it) this is more of a revenge thriller.
Eggers does a great job of making you feel personally invested in Amleth's story, and he does it in an interesting way. You, yourself want him to get his revenge and kill his uncle in cold blood. You WANT bloodshed. But you don't want revenge because you were crying your eyes out when Amleth watched his father die. Eggers doesn't spend much time on Amleth getting to bond with his father. But we're pissed off and want violence anyway. Why? Because of the rage Amleth feels.
We, as people, identify with rage and LOVE the feeling of getting revenge, and Eggers knows this. He wastes no time on building up a forced, sappy father-son relationship before the father's death, but instead utilizes his audience's thirst for bloodshed and thrill. This writing choice along with Alexander Skarsgård's incredible rage-fueled performance, (and his fucking brick house of a body) keep us invested. It's what fuels the entire story, and it works perfectly all the way through to the bloody end.
The costume and set design for this film deserve an Oscar for sure. This being a Robert Eggers film, you can tell that so much detail was put into making every costume and set as period-accurate as possible. Everything here is absolutely stunning to look at, and it's all the more able to immerse you in the atmosphere and world of the film.
If I really had to have ONE complaint for this movie, I'd say that most of the scenes taking place during the night have this blue tint over the entire image that I fucking hate in films. Especially for Robert Eggers, I would have loved to see what sort of vibrant and rich images he could have conjured up with the thick, dark blacks of the night skies pouring onto fierce torch-lit grass. But instead it results to everything on-screen being fucking blue. I dunno, this could totally be a personal thing but I know I absolutely despise when movies do that.
Anyway, 4.5/5. Super exciting, super intense, and SUPER gory. Oh my god, the gore here is really fucking incredible. So if you like gore, you're in luck. If you don't, then you're probably better off going south instead.
I know that was lame, but I thought it was funny.
(Also ten points for Nicole Kidman. Honestly maybe the best performance in the entire film, and she isn’t really even in it THAT much.)