The Northman (2022) Review: Ruthless Beasts with No Remorse


Highly acclaimed and modern filmmaker Robert Eggers’ new film The Northman has hit theaters and it’s beyond breathtaking. I had the pleasure of viewing this film via a screening the Wednesday before it came out and it was a somewhat messy experience that ended with me getting a free T-shirt, so I suppose it wasn’t too bad. Also, watching this film in theaters is without a doubt the way to view this fine picture, but before I get more into that, let’s talk a little about the director himself. 

Robert Eggers started his directing career back in 2007, directing shorts like Hansel & Gretel and The Tell-Tale Heart. However, it was in 2015 with his debut, a gothic, folklore horror film, The Witch, where he had his big break. He also proved himself, once again, a master of his craft with his 2019 surrealist picture, The Lighthouse. He’s proven that he’s a masterful filmmaker with a great understanding of the artistic medium of cinema. He crafts his frames so well and creates dark, surreal, gothic atmospheres that soak up the run times of his pictures. 2022’s The Northman is just another fantastic example of this. 

The Northman is a period piece set in the 10th century. It’s a tale of Prince Amleth (a first indicator that this is a Robert Eggers take on Hamlet), who follows his epic, bloody, and brutal fate to avenge his father, save his mother, and kill Fjolnir, the man who killed his father. The viking warrior, Prince Amleth, was played by Alexander Skarsgard in the role he was born to play. Skarsgard was meant to play a viking. He captures the character and absorbs it into his own self and becomes the beast portrayed so ruthlessly we see on screen. From his running around slaughtering his foes like a warrior to his howling to the shining moon like a wolf. His journey begins as a young child played by Oscar Novak. The first few minutes of this film are the slowest but trust me when I say it sets up us for something unforgettable. The opening of this film introduces us to the parents of young Amleth, his mother played strongly by Nicole Kidman, who starred alongside Tom Cruise in Kubrick’s 1999 picture Eyes Wide Shut, and his father played by the great Ethan Hawke, known for his work in the First Reformed and his many collaborations with director Richard Linklater. They both give an excellent portrayal of loving parents who have very little true chemistry between themselves. From Ethan Hawke’s great relationship with his son shown through the rituals and animalistic bonding they go through together compared to Nicole Kidman’s more so cold, yet still motherly feeling towards him. 

After tragedy, Prince Amleth is off to go on his own with one clear mission in mind – avenge his father, save his mother, and kill Fjolnir. The structuring and pacing of this film feels so well put together. It’s a long film but with many rewarding moments and an incredibly satisfying ending. With the news that Eggers had to cut down more than he would’ve liked for the wide release of this picture, I’m glad I was greeted to a very well put together film that didn’t feel as cut down as I was expecting. The way the film transitions from Young Amleth to the built, viking warrior, Prince Amleth was so well done and went so smoothly in my opinion. This again leads me to give Alexander Skarsgard great praise for his performance. We’re introduced to Prince Amleth with a great, brutal scene of him and his army going into a village. Without saying too much, let’s just say it grabs you by the throat, and it doesn’t let go till the very end. 

On this journey he meets Olga (Of The Birch Forest), played by the magnificent Anya Taylor Joy. She nearly steals the show with her performance. In her most emotion packed role I’ve seen from her so far, she plays the part perfectly. From her struggles as a slave, to her immense joy of what her fate brings her, and to her heartbreaking screams of what may come along the way, she gives a moving performance. The Northman is packed with a great cast featuring two small, but important scenes from the incredibly strange Willem Dafoe and the queen of music herself, Bjork. 

The production and overall filmmaking of this film shines just as much as the captivating performances. Robert Eggers has shown through his work that he always gets the best out of his cast. Beyond that, Eggers has shown excellence in executing his stories flawlessly. He is a filmmaker working right now who knows exactly what he wants to show and will go to great lengths to show exactly that. Every scene feels crafted with a great passion. Every camera movement feels meaningful as if the camera moves exactly when it’s supposed to. The opening pan where we see the cold, bleak sea, to the last final battle we see on screen which I cannot give much away without spoiling. It all feels crafted so carefully. The production design is beautiful and captivating. The villages and the locations used throw you back to this time without any moment or set piece feeling out of place. The trapped feeling of being locked in this time period doesn’t only come from the production of the film but the writing of this film is so accurate and so well written. Every brutal moment, every hard to watch scene was written perfectly. Vikings and kings aren’t portrayed as great heroes, but they’re shown as the ruthless beasts they were with no remorse for their fellow humans. Robert Eggers has proven himself to be a master of his craft and this film has just pushed him further up in the game. 

The Northman is a brutal epic that can only be truly experienced in a theater. It’s bloody, it’s captivating, it’s Eggers at his most gruesome, and I do hope we see a director’s cut of this film at some point. It’s certainly a film worth seeing and definitely a film I’ll be seeing again. 

9/10 – We got an Eggers picture…now where’s Ari Aster at?