The Northman

The Northman Movie Review

“The Northman” is an epic Viking retelling (or is it a PRE-telling?) of the “Hamlet” story. After all – Shakespeare apparently based his monumental play on this ancient Nordic legend. It is a tale of one brother killing his brother (the King) to gain the throne. And there is the young son of the King who vows Vengeance and Death and Honor. All of this told as gnarly dudes with swords, spears, daggers and shields fight for victory in battle, and entrance into Valhalla. It’s like “The Lion King”, as a bloody Nordic tragedy!


Back in the 10th century in the North Sea lands, the leader of the Nordic tribes was named King Aurvandill (played by Ethan Hawke). He ruled with his wife, Queen Gudrún (played by Nicole Kidman) and they had a young son – a child Amleth (played by Oscar Novak). The King was good and gracious, and there was evil lurking around. His brother was named Fjölnir (played by Claes Bang), and he planned to usurp the kingdom.


King Aurvandill took young Amleth into a deep recess in the ground. There, the court jester, Heimir the Fool (played by Willem Dafoe) was also a magical shaman. He summoned the anchient bloodlines on the King to give young Amleth the gift and insight to be King.


Fjölnir has other plans, and he murders King Aurvandill right in front of his son. Amleth runs away, and he escapes out to sea. Fjölnir is told that the boy had been caught and was drowned in the ocean – never to return. Amleth grows in size and strength and wisom. But now the older Amleth (played by Alexander Skarsgård) is still focused on his one goal in life. He must ‘Avenge his Father, Save his Mother, Restore the Family Honor’.


He runs with a crew of berserkers raiding some Slavic villages. He hears of a deposed King named Fjölnir who was run out of the country. His uncle Fjölnir, the once Mighty King and Warrior, has been shoved out to live in Iceland to be a farmer. Amleth has second thoughts about pursuing and murdering his evil uncle Fjö. After all, he has lost his Kindom and he has only a minimum of loyal subjects with him.


But Almeth knows that his mother, Queen Gudrún is still there. Almeth has a vision in which he talks to the Seeress (played by Björk). She is a magical spirit who drills into Amleth that he must still have revenge. Amleth knows that a bunch of captured prisoners from a raid will be sold off as slaves to Fjölnir.


He marks himself as a ‘slave’, but he keeps his Royal Medallion a secret. He is taken on a boat bound for Iceland. There he meets Olga of the Birch Forest (played by Anya Taylor-Joy). Olga knows that Amleth is not a normal captured ‘slave’, but that he has other motives. Amleth and Olga arrive at Fjölnir’s property and are chosen to work at the farm.


The work is difficult and long, but Amleth is pushed on by his quest for vengence. Olga has some mystical abilities to connect with nature, and she encourages Amleth. Fjölnir does not know that the strong new slave is really his nephew Amleth. Queen Gudrún is now married to Fjölnir and she also does not recognize her son. 


Amleth is led by magical spirits in the form of crows and foxes. They lead him to find a special sword that can only be used at night or in darkness. It is a Night Blade of Death, perfect tool for a mission of revenge. Amleth fights a dead knight for the blade, or maybe it is all a mystical dream. Amleth has his way with many of Fjölnir’s guards, so there are many who are now dead. Olga also helps by finding deadly toadstools for a perfect ‘Night Guard Stew’. It’s to die for!


Almeth confronts his monther Gudrún and finds out that she has not been really pure of heart, and not pure-bread — not as he had believed. So there is no way to ‘Save his Mother’. Yet Almeth must still fight Fjölnir in battle to ‘Avenge his Father’. Almeth and Olga are a couple now, and she will bear his twins, and they will be of a Line of Kings. Olga escapes Iceland while Almeth goes back to face his uncle Fjölnir at the Gates of Hell. Should he succeed, he will live in Honor. Should Almeth die in battle, he will earn his entrance into Valhalla.


“The Northman” is truly an epic age of the ages. It is a spectacular story of revenge and bloody battles in the cold North land. The story is familiar anyone who knows about “Hamlet”, or even “The Lion King”. Is it told with epic, sweeping landscapes of beautiful areas of Iceland and some nearby North Sea locations. There is a fantastic amount of detail given to accurate portrayals of 10th century outfits, weapons and transportation. The actors are committed to the accurate performance for these roles.


Alexander Skarsgård is very believable as the huge hulking figure of Almeth. His presence on the screen is astounding.  Claes Bang, who plays Fjölnir, also gives a masterful effort. Anya Taylor-Joy also does a very convincing job as Olga.  Nicole Kidman is excellent. Only Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe are given such brief time that is curious to see how much more they could have done with the roles.


“The Northman” gets a throaty shout of Nordic cheer for the accurate, yet bloody and mystical, portrayal of an early Viking legend.  Odin must be thrilled!


The Northman

Directed by: Robert Eggers
Written by: Sjón, Robert Eggers
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Björk, Willem Dafoe
Cinematography: Jarin Blaschke
Edited by: Louise Ford
Music by: Robin Carolan, Sebastian Gainsborough
Distributed by: Focus Features
Release date: April 22, 2022
Length: 136 minutes
MPAA rating: R for strong bloody violence, some sexual content and nudity
Genre: Historical revenge drama


Rating contributor: JMcNaughton

Let's hope everything is now getting back to normal, right?

I think movies need to be shared and enjoyed by as many people as possible! Going to a movie theater is a group experience, even if you go in there alone. When the lights go dark and movie begins, you can participate in a special kind of magic. You can be entertained, or enlightened. But you are never bored. Or at least, let's hope not. Try reading the reviews first.. maybe that will help!

What's your take?

Free movie screenings and more.
Watch movies with friends.


Northman...a magical violent adventure
2 weeks ago
Really enjoyed this movie... A thrill ride of great cinematic violence
2 weeks ago
It is very violent, but there are (mostly) reasons behind the bloodshed - and 'The Lion King' never looked like this!
1 week ago
The epic play "Macbeth" was supposed to be based off this Nordic myth. So, it does come around (eventually) to 'The Lion King'...
1 week ago