A staggering feat of visceral filmmaking, The Northman, like Eggers’ previous films, warrants profound analysis while still delivering a high-octane action odyssey. Some of the flourishes the director opted for, as well as the film’s overall demeanor (neither entirely self-serious nor fully whimsical), may receive mixed reactions. Still what Eggers has ambitiously crafted lands as an invigorating beacon for an industry in need of studio fare with substantial ideas and artistry.
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It’s a big risk to spend that much cash on an auteur-driven historical epic at a time when historical epics have largely fallen by the wayside. But what a beautiful risk it is. I call upon Odin: may The Northman make a billion dollars.
On its own, it’s still an incredible achievement, amplifying a blood-soaked adventure epic in the haunting specters of witchcraft and folklore that will still challenge viewers without leaving them fully out in the cold. Odin willing, it can offer a window for folks to look into Eggers’ more Bergmanesque works, and inject a little more cinematic curiosity into a palate that’s often dulled by CGI sameness.
It’s not like this movie is a punishing chore; it’s not like Eggers doesn’t want multiplex audiences to like it. And they will. Because this is the kind of filmmaking that rips you out of your body so hard that you’re liable to forget what year it is.
It's when the film meets between these two modes — the mythic and the realistic — that it's at its most thrilling.
While the canvas of Robert Eggers latest is considerably broader than that of The Witch and the Lighthouse, it feels as if its psychological chaos hasn’t expanded accordingly.
Compared to most US action adventures, The Northman is adventurous and distinctive. It feels compromised, but the great stuff outweighs the not-so-great stuff. To see or not to see? If that is the question, the answer is: see it.
The Northman is a horribly violent, nihilistic and chaotic story about the endless cycle of violence, the choice between loving your friends and hating your enemies – which turns out to be no choice at all, and the thread of fate down which masculinity’s delicious toxin drips. It’s entirely outrageous, with some epic visions of the flaring cosmos. I couldn’t look away.
Eggers’ brand of psychological shock is bolder here than his prior works and potent in bursts, but barely works on boldness alone.
Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t – Alexander Skarsgård's Prince Amleth rampages through a mythological epic of savage beauty.