The Northman

The Northman ★★★★½

While this latest unabashedly visionary effort from director Robert Eggers includes characters and chemistry that undoubtedly hit the mark, it's the scenery, effects, and design that make this epic historical fiction film such an accomplishment. Based on a revenge horror of an Old Norse myth that inspired Hamlet, it stars Alexander Skarsgård as Amleth, a Viking warrior prince on an unyielding quest to fulfil his decisive destiny of vengeance. The fantasy aspects are essential drivers of the drama and serve as a reminder that we are dealing with a mythical tale, with Eggers illustrating that he's encircled himself with a cast and crew that are all incredible in their duties. 

Although Eggers weaves a simple tale with a basic story of revenge lying at its heart, his signature motifs make it feel that it's much broader in scope. The hallucinations caused by psychotropic plants and mushrooms that materialise regularly throughout the film are rendered with some haunting and impressive visuals. They continue a central motif from the filmmaker and come across as a hereditary progression of phantasmagoric scenes seen initially in The Witch, which arose naturally from dreams and visions and continued in The Lighthouse, where they were induced by alcohol. They greatly heighten the traditional tale of retribution and male violence, resulting in The Northman being a masterful effort from the director despite the storyline of the fable being, to a certain extent, somewhat superficial.

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