The Northman

Game of Conan the Viking Thrones

There seems to have been a recent spate of movies and streams about Vikings and their ilk. They’re all unsurprisingly violent, with a lot of angry, flashing swords; rolling heads; muscular, shirtless men; etc., with often a little Norse mythology mixed in. Most of the dialogue is shouted. Now Robert Eggers’s take on the genre puts all these predecessors in the shade. The story has to do with a young Viking prince who witnesses the murder of his beloved father (Ethan Hawke) by his dastardly uncle (Claes Bang) and the abduction of his mother (Nicole Kidman). The lad survives but vows to one day find his father’s killer, avenge his death and rescue his ma.

A few decades later he is a strapping warrior named Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard). He gets a lead on his prey and voluntarily becomes a slave of the man as he plots his revenge (and meets fellow slave Anya Taylor-Joy). If you’re thinking this is looking a tad Shakespearean, let me point out that the guy’s name is a simply decoded anagram. Eggers’s nihilistic, meticulously crafted film offers obsessive attention to 10 th -century Viking detail, eviscerating violence, big performances (watch for Willem Dafoe, and even Bjork) and it’s undeniably a triumph of visceral spectacle.

So. To watch or not to watch. Bottom line, the good stuff outweighs the cornball. But keep in mind that no one goes to an Eggers movie for nuance and restraint. This is the visionary who gave us such delicate entertainments as The Witch and The Lighthouse (less ambitious indies that I liked much better). But for me the constant hysterical intensity was all laid on a bit thick, almost comically so in places. Just sayin’.

Streaming now on Apple TV (137 min)