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Northman, The


Stars: Alexander Skarsgard, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Elliott Rose, Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Phill Martin, Bjork

Director: Robert Eggers

Blood-red in tooth and claw and packed with brutal action, Eggers' latest horror/thriller, following The Witch and The Lighthouse, crosses Macbeth with The Lion King and sets the result in a Viking world of 895AD, where heavy beards and sepulchral darkness are the order of the day. Some of the dialogue, however, is portentous enough for the occasional giggle.

The King (Hawke in a growly cameo) is slain by his brother Fjolnir (Bang), with the 12-year-old crown prince Amleth (Oscar Novak) managing to flee, leaving his mother (Kidman) behind, but vowing vengeance.

Sailing away, he ends up in the country of the equally warlike Rus, who rape and pillage local villages as a matter of course. A witch doctor tells the now-grown Amleth (a bulked-up Skarsgard) that he will be avenged in a lake of fire, with the help of an Excalibur-like sword, which 'can only be unsheathed in the dark of night or at Hel's (sic) gates'.

Leaving the Rus, he journeys by boat to Iceland, where, as a self-imposed slave, he becomes enthralled to none other than his father's killer, now without a kingdom, but with Amleth's mother in tow, and lord of all the bleakness he surveys.

Amleth passes up chances to dispatch Fjolnir as he's waiting for his lake of fire, whiling away the time by participating in a tourney that mixes rugby league with the Eton wall game, but is considerably more violent than either.

Even though Amleth falls for fellow slave Olga (Taylor-Joy), however, he remains consumed by his desire for revenge.

It's all hokum of course, but imposingly, impressively mounted, and with a grindingly effective score by Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough that evokes both Scotland and the Scandinavian Arctic. Kidman is particularly good as the equivocal queen, who plays a key role in a twist towards the climax. There is much throat-cutting, although fainthearts have time to look away, and much of the blood-letting is off-screen.

David Quinlan

UK/Northern Ireland/Iceland 2022. UK Distributor: Universal (Focus). Colour by Panalux.
127 minutes. Not widescreen (2 x 1). UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 12 Apr 2022