The Northman (2022)
I won't lie, I had heard good things. You know I'm not fond of cold, but going out of my way to actively seek it out just seems like general foolishness. Yet this popped up on my list and I could have put it off, but no, masochist that I am, give me the icy winds of the North Atlantic. It's grim up there, you know. I wasn't expecting Senua's Sacrifice, but this was what it looked like I was getting.
So, Game of Thrones and the Proclaimers '500 miles' still making an uninvited appearance in my subconscious, I battled forward. This has a significant disadvantage before even starting, not just for the aforementioned cold, but the horseshit and snow, real log fires and no doubt ludicrous Scandinavian accents. This better be as special as I've been led to believe, I told myself.
Imagine watching Gladiator after the actual film reel itself had been flooded and then hurriedly dried off with a mucky flannel, all washed out and lacking its sense of polish. Well, this is what you're getting here. This is often gorgeous to witness, at least as often as it is terrifying. The acting is excellent (but please ignore the accents) and the cinematography stunning, even down to the muck under the fingernails of every character, which while we're not introduced to them individually, you can imagine the lives of each and every one, such is the canvas upon which they are carefully strewn.
Admittedly, life was clearly different back in the good old days of the tenth century, not least the very real chance of losing your voice from all the screaming you were doing and the perfectly reasonable possibility of receiving a permanent life-altering brain injury or several broken bones just from leaving the house for a quick game of sport. Honestly, I am not an advocate and would fare terribly if dropped into this truly horrible time. I still consider myself a bit handy, but I am almost certain I would be killed immediately by small angry children, purely out of half-arsed boredom.
Whilst ambling most of the time in order to raise tension, it contains many moments of navel-gazing reflection. Granted this usually is followed by a good throaty rape and/or pillage or grisly dismembering murder. The script is sophisticated enough to be able to jump from one to the other without making the audience feel like the quiet bits are just filler for the loud, bloody ones, a trick Gladiator also employed to full effect in its portrayal of one man's need for exacting ultimate revenge.
This is top class running and shouting. Recommended. For the more sensitive amongst you, bring a bucket.