The Northman: 5 reasons to see Robert Eggers' Viking epic on the big screen

The Northman is released in Cineworld cinemas in time for the Easter Bank Holiday, offering a primal, berserker alternative to family-friendly fare.

Director Robert Eggers plunders Norse myth to bring us an archetypal story of revenge, one bathed in blood and barbaric behaviour.

With its all-star cast, acclaimed art-house director and striking visuals, the movie is a strong recommendation for those who enjoy movies with a strong flavour.

Here's why you need to book your tickets for The Northman.


1. It's a truly transporting trip back in time

Director Robert Eggers is famed for his verisimilitude and commitment to careful research. Both The Witch and The Lighthouse assimilated the vocal idioms and paranoias of their respective periods, and The Northman ventures even further back in time to adapt the 10th-century tale of Amleth.

The original arcane Norse tale inspired the creation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, detailing an outcast Viking prince's desire to hunt down his murderous uncle and reclaim the kingdom that was stolen from him. The movie is co-written by Icelandic poet Sjon who helps invest the material with greater authenticity. 

Revel in the look and feel of a world that is red in tooth and claw, utterly primal and given to savage violence at every turn. There's also a commitment to an overlap between the supernatural and the actual with primal fireside rituals giving way to horsebound charging valkyries and visions of Yggdrasil, the sacred Norse tree.


2. Alexander Skarsgard is a beast

Bellowing an atavistic roar, sporting washboard abs and neck veins the size of a Christmas ham, the role of Amleth is one that Skarsgard was born to play.

It's the natural successor of Skarsgard's Nordic vampire role from TV hit True Blood, and has long been a passion project for the Swedish-born actor. (He's part of the Skarsgard acting dynasty, led by the acclaimed Stellan.)

And yet, underneath the feral ferocity and dedication to bloody vengeance, Skarsgard is able to sketch the isolation and desolation that comes with his gruesome commitment to carnage. Don't let these subtleties and ironies bypass you in the face of the movie's all-encompassing sensationalism.

3. It looks and sounds incredible

From Jarin Blaschke's lush cinematography, which revels in extended, complex single takes, to the guttural roar of Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough's score, The Northman doesn't so much envelop as overwhelm. 

The actors have spoken about how difficult The Northman was to make, and one can practically taste the mud, sweat and blood of its ancient, arcane landscapes.

4. It's the definitive Viking movie

Surprisingly enough, Eggers confessed to not being a Viking expert or enthusiast prior to making The Northman. However, once he came on board, he devoted himself to not making anything by half-measures. But we've come to expect that from the maker of The Witch and The Lighthouse.

A case in point: a seemingly throwaway detail in the form of Nicole Kidman's headdress that she sports at the start of the movie.

Fun fact for nobody: her headpiece is of Finnish origin,” Eggers explains. “So that would have been something that, like [Ethan Hawke's character] Aurvandill plundered from somewhere else and brought home to his queen.”

That so much research is bedded into the very fabric of the movie tells you what kind of experience you're in for.


5. There's a flotilla of scene-stealing supporting performances

Anya Taylor-Joy, reuniting with Eggers after The Witch, brings much-needed warmth and humanity as Olga of the Birch Tree, Amleth's ally and eventual lover who may offer a path away from his life of destruction.

Dracula's Claes Bang is hirsute and menacing as the villainous Uncle Fjolnir who executes Amleth's father Aurvandill and seizes the kingdom. Yet even he shades a ruthless character with notes of compassion.

Nicole Kidman evokes memories of her roles in Malice and To Die For with her performance as the duplicitous Gudrun. There are also memorable, brief appearances from Bjork as a wool-weaving seer who portends Amleth's destiny and The Lighthouse's Willem Dafoe as the cackling fool Heimir.

Click here to book your tickets for The Northman, which arrives in Cineworld cinemas on 15th April.