The Northman review roundup: What the critics are saying about Robert Eggers’ bloody viking epic

‘History comes thundering back to life in “The Northman”, in a chorus of howls, farts, and belches,’ Clarisse Loughrey wrote

Tom Murray
Monday 11 April 2022 21:31 BST
The Northman trailer

Robert Eggers’ highly-anticipated Viking epic The Northman has arrived in cinemas and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive.

The director of the critically lauded 2019 film The Lighthouse has recruited Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Björk and Willem Dafoe for his latest work.

The film follows Skarsgård’s Prince Amleth on a quest for revenge after his father is brutally murdered by his uncle. The film’s budget, partially due to pandemic delays, reached somewhere around $90m (£69m), Clarisse Loughrey noted for The Independent, making it a big risk for its producers.

Time will tell if the risk pays off at the box office, but the film has been extremely well received by critics.

Find a roundup of The Northman reviews below.

The Independent – five stars

“History comes thundering back to life in The Northman, in a chorus of howls, farts, and belches. This is a Viking epic of thick, blood-red brutality, where Alexander Skarsgård – so bulked up he can only stand wide-legged like a He-Man action figure – rips a man’s throat out with his bare teeth. Where Ethan Hawke, high off the fumes of ancient henbane seeds, crawls feverishly around a mossy cave while a dust-caked and cackling Willem Dafoe decries the “dogs that want to become men”. Where Nicole Kidman, coins shimmering around her furrowed brow, delivers a performance so feral it seems to shake the very foundations of the frame she inhabits.”

The Guardian – five stars

The Northman is a horribly violent, nihilistic and chaotic story about the endless cycle of violence, the choice between loving your friends and hating your enemies – which turns out to be no choice at all, and the thread of fate down which masculinity’s delicious toxin drips. It’s entirely outrageous, with some epic visions of the flaring cosmos. I couldn’t look away.”

‘The Northman’ (Focus Features)

Empire – five stars

“This is intimate, culturally rich storytelling on a brutally epic scale. Skarsgård is in his element, bolstered by a sensational cast throwing themselves headfirst into Eggers and Sjón’s awe-inspiring vision. A cinematic saga worthy of the ancestors.”

The Telegraph – four stars

“To date, Eggers’s aesthetic has had a harsh singularity – there’s nothing quite like those other two films. This sells itself somewhat differently. It’s a mash-up of many cinematic formulae – never far from the meathead epics of Mel Gibson (or Gladiator); but dabbling too in the trippy mysticism of The Fountain. It reminds you of everything and nothing.”

BBC – three stars

“The Northman is a film in which a Viking prince proves his worthiness by farting, and then levitates while his father’s innards morph into a magical fortune-telling tree. It’s a film in which Björk plays a witch with no eyes and a wheat-sheaf headdress, and a frenzied Valkyrie rides a white horse across the sky. Noses are bitten off, throats are torn out, and a man staggers into a fire, holding handfuls of his own entrails. It’s not your typical Friday night at the cinema. And yet, despite all of the strangeness and brutality mentioned above, The Northman isn’t quite strange or brutal enough.”

The Northman is released on 15 April in the UK and 22 April in the US.

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