This year has already been fairly strong in terms of new movies. From independent crowd-pleasers like Everything Everywhere All at Once to blockbuster megahits like Top Gun Maverick, 2022 has already offered plenty of must-watch flicks.
With so much good stuff to watch both on the big screen and at home via some of the best streaming services, it’s not a great surprise that some of the year’s most well-reviewed movies have slipped through the cracks.
Case in point: The Northman. This historical epic landed in theaters with a bit of thud back in April, but it’s just started streaming via Peacock, and it very much deserves a second chance to find a wider audience.
The Northman is an adrenaline rush
Directed by Robert Eggers, whose previous works included The Witch and The Lighthouse, The Northman stars Alexander Skarsgard as Amleth, a Viking warrior prince who flees his home as a young boy after his uncle stages a violent coup and overthrows Amleth’s father, the king. Years later now a fully grown, and very ripped, adult, Amleth sets out to seek revenge on the man who murdered his father and stole his rightful crown.
If the plot sounds vaguely familiar to you, that might be because it’s a retelling of a real Viking legend, a story which in turn is said to have inspired William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Filled with high drama, and some seriously bloody sequences, The Northman is, as one TG staff put it, “a wonderfully over the top adrenaline rush of a movie.”
Alongside Skargard’s commanding performance, Anya Taylor-Joy is also excellent as Olga, a slave who claims to be a sorceress who ultimately assists Amleth in his bloody quest. While I’m doling out praise to the cast it would be remiss of me not to mention Nicole Kidman who plays Amleth’s mother. Without spoilers, what may at first seems like a fairly unexciting character takes a very interesting turn in the film’s dramatic third act.
While The Northman’s central yarn manages to stay interesting enough to keep the film engaging across its length 137-minute runtime, what really elevates the film to one of the year’s best is Eggers' direction. There are so many beautiful and haunting shots in The Northman that you could probably pause the movie at almost any point and hang the still image in an art gallery.
There is no denying that the film’s extreme violence and surreal dream sequences will be off-putting to some audience members, but if you’re willing to go along for the ride The Northman is utterly absorbing. While Egger isn’t afraid to let each emotionally-charged scene breathe when required, from start to finish the film remains extremely intense. If you want one word that perfectly encapsulated The Northman, it’s epic.
The Northman: What the critics say
Need some extra convincing that The Northman is worth nearly two and half hours of your precious free time? If I’ve not quite sold you on the film yet, perhaps its 89% score on Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab) will do the trick.
The overwhelming majority of critics were as equally impressed with The Northman as I was. K. Austin Collins of Rolling Stone (opens in new tab) said: “The Northman, Robert Eggers’ biggest and most expansive (and expensive) feature to date, is also his best so far” while Emily Zemler of Observer (opens in new tab) notes the film is “so visceral you can feel it reverberating inside your body, which is exactly what makes it so delightful.”
Frankly, The Northman is worth the cost of a $4.99 per month Peacock (opens in new tab) subscription on its own. And if you’ve already got a Peacock account, then I implore you to put the film at the top of your watchlist. The streamer is quickly developing a reputation for offering a library of unmissable movies, and The Northman stands very much among the best of them.
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