The Northman Review
Ever since The Witch debuted at Sundance in January 2015, Robert Eggers has been a director whose follow-up films I have eagerly anticipated. I was so impressed that The Witch was his very first film and considered it a horror masterpiece (still do, in fact). His next film, 2019's The Lighthouse was bold and beautiful--a film that I could admire, but one that also kept me at arm's length. This brings us to today as his third film, The Northman is opening in theaters.
The Northman is Robert Eggers' retelling of William Shakespeare's Hamlet amid a Viking backdrop. Here, a young prince Amleth witnesses with his very own eyes the murder of his beloved father (Ethan Hawke) at the hands of the King's own brother. After his murderous uncle orders Amleth's death as well, Amleth flees and dedicates his life to revenge in order to avenge his father's death and save his mother (Nicole Kidman) from a life married to his evil uncle. Some years later we meet a now-adult Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) who after being pushed along by destiny, is now ready for vengeance.
While I wouldn't say this necessarily reaches the heights of The Witch for me, The Northman is really fantastic in its own right and may even be Robert Eggers' most accessible film to date. Don't worry, the film is still plenty weird though as many Shakespeare stories tend to feature ghosts, magic, or witchcraft and so too does The Northman. As with all his projects thus far, Robert Eggers once again displays incredible attention to historical detail. The way he authentically recreates these time periods for his films is nothing short of marvelous. See this movie on the biggest screen you can so you can take in all the visuals, not to mention so you can be stunned by the stellar sound design as well.
The Northman is just expertly crafted from top to bottom and that includes its wonderful cast. Ethan Hawke, Nicole Kidman, and Willem Dafoe each make the absolute most of their screentime and all were phenomenal. Skarsgård is tasked with carrying much of the film and his performance just works. There's nuance to his rage and sadness. The always reliable Anya Taylor-Joy once again continues to be reliable and comes in and steals every scene she's in. She and Eggers just work so well together and I hope they have many more collaborations in years to come.
Once again, Robert Eggers has reaffirmed with The Northman that he's a talent to continue to watch. He has such a distinct eye and voice and his gifts are on full display in The Northman.