“Revenge is the raging fire that consumes the arsonist.” – Max Lucado
We were promised Robert Eggers with a more sizable budget and we’ve been given The Northman. I can tell you this, money well spent. I’ll just get this out of the way now, The Northman is (so far) the best film of 2022. I was both horrified and transfixed by The VVitch. It was an auspicious debut of someone who much like Ari Aster did with Hereditary, Eggers proved his place as a future director not to be overlooked. He followed up his fantastic introduction with The Lighthouse, a movie that is a fully realized vision of mania and rancid loneliness. It’s not the most digestible tale but it is undoubtedly one of commanding brilliance.
With only two films he managed to create a yearning to see what he would create next. The Northman, his third feature, proves that curiosity was more than justified and that two successful films were not a fluke, simply a precursor to what is certainly going to be a fantastic career.
The VVitch felt like a toe dip of what he wanted to create and with The Lighthouse it was a full blown cannonball in the deep end. The Northman feels like a more focused but still fully embraced vision that features both arthouse characteristics as well as a more mainstream approach to themes like murder and revenge. It is the combination of his “indie eye” and more straightforward scenes of violence that make this something wholly unique to Eggers. Especially since two juxtaposing styles have been melded together so seamlessly. To be clear, the entire film is Eggers flexing his abilities; it’s just this time he has the money to back him up.
The Northman is a story of vengeance in its most purest, rawest form. A boy, heir to a kingdom, is witness to the demise of his parents as they fall to someone they once trusted with their lives. Being of no legitimate threat due to his age and size he escapes with hatred in his heart that demands his return one day when the time is right and his physical form has matched his desire to right such wrongs. But as it usually goes, reality and what is imagined in our minds often do not match perfectly. Revenge is anything but a straight line. It is a maze with landmines littered throughout.
If you’ve read any of my reviews for movies featuring Alexander Skarsgård you would know I’m not exactly a fan. While I have no issues necessarily with him in any role he’s done, he’s also never once wowed me with a performance. Even in a movie where he doesn’t speak once, he still manages, at best, a sleepy character, boring and unworthy of being remembered. I tell you this to say that I have no loyalty to this man so when I tell you he is absolutely brilliant as the vengeful viking you know I mean it.
His character has moments where he must in a way transform his mind from that of a man into an animalistic creature, fueled by violence and unadulterated aggression. Skarsgård does this flawlessly. He is scarily massive not only in physical stature but in his focus as someone whose entire existence revolves around death. You believe his every moment on screen. You can feel his pain and you hope that as his relationships with certain other characters begin to blossom, he will find his peace without the sacrifice of his own life, which is suddenly finding its worth beyond that of other people’s demise.
Now when it comes to his scene partner, Anya Taylor-Joy, to the shock of no one, she is as compelling as ever. I believe she is one of the future iconic actors of her age. With the likes of Streep, Nicholson and Lewis, Taylor-Joy will find her place among them. Her popularity in the Hollyweird sphere is absolutely earned and for my money, totally welcome. I become more eager with each of her performances to see what she does next. Whether she is a newly ordained witch or a murderess-in-hiding she has the acting prowess of someone twice her age. Soon she will star in the prequel Furiosa and prove that no matter the genre, she can do it all. I’m a fan if you couldn’t tell.
The Northman is a perfect combination of the oddities that make up his previous two efforts with elements he’s never explored before. With his latest effort he provides an experience of unbelievable gore, blood and unforgiving violence. He has crafted a brutal, abhorrent tale of self discovery through the lens of someone blinded by hatred and completely lost to its promises of muddied fulfillment. He has demonstrated that he has a style, a flavor if you will, that is ever present but proves difficult to place exactly what it feels like to watch a Robert Eggers film. Despite three completely different kinds of movies, with his vision and style they somehow feel as if they belong in a kind of unofficial trilogy, like Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy. They possess a flow and feel that he creates every time he’s behind a camera.
Prepare for more weirdness than the trailer for The Northman lets on but I assure you when they say this film is as violent as they come, it is no exaggeration. This is not for the faint of heart. For all the moments it is unabashedly savage, it is equal parts beautifully captured. The cinematography is breathtaking. The wide shots of distant lands long since altered by modern man are alien and yet showcase the wild lushness of the untouched earth. For the Eggers fans out there, he continues to impress and shows no signs of slowing. I’ll say it again, The Northman (so far) is the best movie of 2022. If something better is on the horizon in 2022, I can’t wait to see it because this will be hard to beat.
Rated R For: strong bloody violence, some sexual content and nudity
Runtime: 136 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Nicole Kidman
Directed By: Robert Eggers
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 10/ Acting: 10/ Directing: 10/ Visuals: 10
OVERALL: 10 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes.
Check out the trailer below:
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