• Ken Silvers

The Northman


Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgard ("True Blood") sure gives his all in the current film "The Northman", in which he co-produced and stars as Amleth, a Viking warrior prince. The film relies heavily on Norse Mythology, and is set in 895 AD. We first see Amleth as a child welcoming his father, King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke) home to the island of Hrafnsey after a successful overseas conquest. The King is also welcomed by Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman), who appears to be happier to see her husband than he is to see her (foreshadowing). After his arrival home with a celebration, King Aurvandill takes Amleth to a spiritual ceremony to prepare his son to one day become heir to the throne. The ceremony is bizarre to say the least, and for my tastes went on a bit too long. The following morning after the ceremony, the King is ambushed and murdered by a group of masked warriros, of which one I willl not identify. After he witnessess the murder of his father, Amleth is able to escape and return home, only to find his village under seage. The lad sees his mother kidnapped, and after realizing he must flee, takes a boat and while swearing to avenge his father and save his mother, heads out to sea. Later Amleth is found by a group of Vikings, and is raised by them as a berserker, a warrior who is able to fight in a trance-like fury, which later gave rise to the English word berserk. Now an adult, Amleth encounters a Seeress following an attack in the land of Rus, who predicts the warrior will soon seek revenge on the person who murdered his father. Eventually discovers the person responsible for killing his father was overthrown by Harald of Norway, and is living in exile in Iceland. Amleth is able to find a ship headed to Iceland, and sneaks aboard posing as a slave. While on the ship Amleth meets Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), a Slavic slave who says she is a sorceress. When the ship arrives in Iceland, Amleth discovers he now has a half-brother named Gunnar (Elliott Rose). Amleth is a slave in the small village, and after escaping one night ecounters a strange man who tells about a magical sword that can only be retrieved at night. After hearing the story, Amleth enters a mound (a raised area of earth covering a grave or graves) and is able to retrieve the sword after fighting and defeating an undead Mound Dweller. The obtained sword will play a huge role in the revenge of Amleth (which could have been the title of the movie). During their time as slaves, Amleth and Olga grow closer, and eventually due to a selfless act by Amleth, is rewarded Olga as his wife. The new couple then make plans to overcome their masters in order to seek freedom from bondage for themselves and the other slaves. The plan of the duo works, and after several surprising interactions, one especially shocking encounter with his mother, Amleth and Olga are able to flee Iceland, but while fleeing on a ship, Amleth reveals to Olga he must return to Iceland and avenge his father. When he returns to Iceland, he battles the person responsible for killing his father at the Gates of Hel, otherwise known as the volcano Hekla. The fight is exciting and has a surprising end. All the actors in this film are in top form, and one actor I have not mentioned up to this point is Claes Bang who stars as the King's brother Fjolnir, and is very effective in the role. Meanwhile, Kidman is her usual excellent self, but the definite highlight is Skarsgard, who is completely animalistic in his role, which is perfect for his character. The actors aside, I did feel the film was a bit too long, and would have fared better with a bit of editing. The film also contains graphic violence, which I supposed you should expect in a film about Vikings. On the positive side, the film features beautiful cinematography, which aids the storytelling. While I certainly didn't enjoy every aspect of "The Northman", Skarsgard is the film's saving grace. Now playing in theaters. (Rated R)