Every young boy has the same desire. It is in our dreams. It is in our blood.
It is our solemn birthright and nothing can stand in our way - every boy must avenge his father's death at the hand of his uncle. We have no other choice.
This, in a nutshell, is Robert Eggers' The Northman.
Eggers has a fascination with folklore that leads to fully realized worlds in his films. Satanic magiks in THE VVITCH, marine superstitions in THE LIGHTHOUSE and now the bloody myths of Vikings in THE NORTHMAN, wherein he blurs the lines between the fantastic and reality with a deft hand.
When our protagonist, Prince Amleth, is a boy, he watches his uncle kill his father and take his mother as a prize. He swears revenge and retreats to the north.
There Amleth, portrayed by Alexander Skarsgård (Zoolander 2) in the role he was literally born to play, becomes a beast of the night, a vicious and almost unstoppable killer that helps his new tribe conquer, pillage and take slaves.
Eventually Amleth discovers that some slaves are to be sent to his uncle, seizes on the opportunity to brand himself a slave and begin his journey for revenge; to fulfill his destiny.
Along the way banished prince meets Olga, a fellow slave and clever woman of earthen magics. Olga, played by the hauntingly beautiful, Anna Taylor-Joy (Playmobil: The Movie), helps Amleth bring his uncle's fiefdom to its knees through gaslighting tactics such as grotesque tableaus of bodies and psychotropic poisons in soldiers' foods.
Our hero is finally ready to save his mother but he learns a terrible truth: she wanted his father dead. She wanted his uncle to kill him as well.
She wanted to marry his uncle.
This is the brilliance of the film.
It takes what should be a simple revenge story and turns it on its head with the reveal that the woman the hero was trying to save was the villain the whole time.
The insidious villainy of women is a through line of Eggers work.
The way they groom young girls into abandoning their families like in THE VVITCH. How they use their sexual prowess over men to divide them in THE LIGHTHOUSE. In THE NORTHMAN, it's the fickle desires of greener pastures that leads to the downfall of humanity.
Queen Gudrum, played by an ageless Nicole Kidman (Happy Feet), takes it a step further and offers herself to her son should he be willing to kill his uncle and claim the throne for his own.
This is the depths of feminine madness on full display. Gudrum is willing to kill one son and bang another - anything to maintain power and subjugate those around her to her feminine psychosis.
Rarely has the sinister underbelly of feminism been so on display in a modern film.
After this revelation, our hero chooses not to commit incest with his mother and leave with his new witch wife, Olga. It is when Olga reveals that she's pregnant with Amleth's child that he realizes he must finish his quest for vengeance.
Not only because he knows his unborn children are in danger of reprisal, but because he swore an oath to avenge his father.
His witch wife begs him not to go. But he does. Because he must.
Because this is the Viking way, this is Amelth's destiny.
I won't spoil the ending, but suffice to say it's a satisfying conclusion to a film that teaches young men a very important lesson - women that men wish to save cannot comprehend why men would pursue this endeavor. And the rare ones that do understand the masculine urge to save-a-ho are the most dangerous of them all; the ones you will end up seeking vengeance upon.
Cinematography: 9/10. Truly incredible from start to finish, from battles to establishing shots.
Score: In sync in a way that keeps the action moving forward but doesn't overpower the scene
Performances: Eggers is masterful at finding actors who embody the characters they are playing
Length: 2.5 hours but its so dense with plot and action that it never feels its length.
Final Score: 9/10