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“The Northman” is an Unhinged Viking “Hamlet” [Review]

Director Robert Eggers latest film “The Northman” is probably his most commercial piece to date, but also his least distinctive. Those familiar with his work on “The VVitch” or “The Lighthouse” should brace for a slightly more watered-down version of the auteur. That’s not to say this Viking epic is bad. It just left us wanting a bit more. We also would have been perfectly fine if he’d headed in an entirely different stylistic direction than his previous work. 

Alexander Skarsgård stars as Amleth in director Robert Eggers’ Viking epic THE NORTHMAN, a Focus Features release. Credit: Aidan Monaghan / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

The following spoiler is given away in the trailer and official synopsis. Alexander Skarsgård stars as a Viking prince who basically gets “Hamlet”-d (we’re making it a verb, deal with it). Nicole Kidman and Ethan Hawke star as his parents. Claes Bang features as his conniving and usurping uncle. “The Lighthouse” star Willem Dafoe gives us the closest glimpse of Eggers’ previous spark and style as an unhinged court jester turned spiritual guide.

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Skarsgård is as yoked as you’ve ever seen him in this. Unfortunately his performance doesn’t quite have as much range as his workouts did. After witnessing his father’s murder he makes his life’s mission revenge. Along the way he meets Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, an enslaved woman. The two embark upon an alignment of goals in order to seek redress for their respective wrongs. 

Northman New to See Here…?

Alexander Skarsgård stars as Amleth and Anya Taylor-Joy as Olga in director Robert Eggers’ Viking epic THE NORTHMAN, a Focus Features release. Credit: Aidan Monaghan / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

There are definitely moments that are evocative of Egger’s style. They’re interwoven with violence that delights in its gruesomeness. The story itself is one we’ve seen before (again see: “Hamlet”) and it’s fine- but not genre defining. Many of the characters feel one dimensional; the female characters in particular. The action is well done, and the score from Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough deserves a call out.

We’d say temper your expectations for the film. We had hoped for something more unique out of Eggers, but he delivers a serviceable action drama. “The Northman” is one of those films where we think the trailer actually relatively accurately represents the vibe of the film. Trust your gut (and watch out for spilled guts) on whether or not this one is for you.

It hits theaters on April 22nd, 2022.

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