‘The Northman’ triumphs as reinvention of classic revenge tales


Acclaimed director Robert Eggers’ new viking epic “The Northman” is brutal, unforgiving, and truly awe-inspiring to watch. The film centers around the deposed Prince Amleth, played by Alexander Skarsgard, as he embarks on a journey of self-discovery and vengeance towards those who wronged him and stole his family’s throne. The film also stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Olga, Amleth’s chiefest ally, Ethan Hawke as Amleth’s father, The King Aurvandil, Nicole Kidman as Amleth’s mother, Queen Gudrun, Claes Bang as Fjolnir, and Willem Dafoe as Heimir the Fool.

In the first act, Amleth is forced to watch family die and runs away from home, leaving his mother behind in the process and the traitorous Fjolnir as King, setting up the one line that Skarsgard brilliantly delivers in almost every trailer and many times across the film, as it is the center of the plot- “I will avenge you, Father. I will save you, Mother. I will kill you, Fjulnir.” This promise serves as the entire premise of the film.

“The Northman’s” direction is absolutely stellar. Fans of Eggers’ previous works like “The Lighthouse” and “The Witch” will be pleased with his directorial style of over-the-top prophetic sequences where seasoned actors like Willem Dafoe are given the opportunities to go all-out with their monologuing skills. However, “The Northman” has a far quicker pace than Eggers’ previous works, as the slow montages of the viking landscapes are interspersed with bits of action and extreme violence committed by Amleth as he inches closer towards his goals. The music is strong, as it adds to the viking mood and overall brutal tone of the film very well. Additionally, the cinematography is amazing, as the natural landscapes of Iceland are combined with amazing special effects to create some truly surreal scenes.

While “The Northman” at first glance may seem like the typical revenge film that has been retread dozens of times over the years, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. “The Northman” is far more brutal and unforgiving than typical revenge-trope movies, which results in a truly shocking experience for all viewers. It subverts traditional stories of vengeance by portraying vengeful acts in a far less heroic and more selfish and brutal manner.

Additionally, “The Northman” leans into spiritual viking stories in its plot, with multiple surreal scenes of Amleth confronting his destiny in the fate of the supernatural. The characters are strong, with Amleth and Anya Taylor Joy’s Olga being the standouts in their storyline. The dialogue and screenplay are sharp as well, as Amleth’s few words are always well chosen, and the characters push the plot forward instead of the other way around, making for a more pleasurable watch.

Ultimately, “The Northman” is a fantastic subversion of classic revenge films. Its technical aspects are all fantastic, it is expertly written and Robert Eggers’ direction is simply astounding. Additionally, it boasts one of the most shocking and satisfying conclusions of any film, and is a welcome addition to the Viking genre. Robert Eggers’ “The Northman” is a fantastic watch for any viewer willing to withstand overloads of graphic violence.

Grade: A