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The Northman (Universal Pictures) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • The Northman (Universal Pictures) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Universal Pictures
    Released on: June 7th, 2022.
    Director: Robert Eggers
    Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidmna, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke
    Year: 2022
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Northman – Movie Review:

    Directed by Robert Eggers and co-written by Eggers and Icelandic author Sjón (also known as Björk/The Sugarcubes collaborator Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson), 2022’s The Northman opens when King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke) returns home from battle to the island of Hrafnsey, excited to see his wife, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) and even more excited to reunite with his son, Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak). A short time after their arrival, Aurvandil takes Amleth to a ceremony presided over by Heimir (Willem Dafoe), wherein declares that Amleth will be his successor. The happy reunion is cut short when Aurvandil's brother, Fjölnir (Claes Bang) and his men ambush the king and the prince, leaving the elder man dead and Amleth assumed deceased after one of Fjölnir's claims to have thrown him in the sea to his death. Fjölnir takes Gudrún as his own and takes over the slave trade that Aurvandil was involved in.

    Amleth grows up (and is played by Alexander Skarsgård), wanting nothing more than to avenge his father, save his mother and kill his uncle. He joins a crew of Vikings and learns how to handle himself in battle. After a successful raid, he hears that a group of slaves belonging to Fjölnir are being transported to Iceland where he now resides in exile. Amleth leaves his crew and sneaks his way onto a slave ship where he meets a beautiful Slavic woman named Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy). From here, he's brought into Fjölnir's compound where he learns his uncle his sired two sons with his mother, Thorir (Gustva Lindh) and the younger Gunnar (Elliott Rose). As he works his way up the slave ranks and is allowed to take Olga as his beloved, Amleth comes into possession of a mystical sword named Draugr that can only be unsheathed at night but which will make short work of his enemies, at which point he starts to plan his final revenge, with Olga’s help, against the man who killed his father.

    Shot on location mostly in Northern Ireland but partially in Iceland and based on the Danish legend of Amleth, The Northman generally works quite well and, despite the fact that really could have used some more judicious editing to trim some fat and bring down the two hour and seventeen minute running time, proves to be a feast for the eyes in pretty much every frame. There are moments where Eggers lets some of the fantasy elements go too far, which clashes with the film’s otherwise grounded and earthy aesthetic, but the visuals are remarkably strong and the movie offers up some genuinely impressive set pieces.

    The cast, however, is to notch. There isn’t a weak link in this chain. Skarsgård is perfect in the lead, full of angst but not afraid to let his guard down for the occasional moment of tenderness shared with Taylor-Joy’s character. He handles himself very well in the fight scenes, an early spot where he and the Viking crew attack a village being a stand out moment of intense ferocity on his part. Taylor-Joy is also very good here, well cast in a role that makes good use of her interesting facial features and unique appearance. Nicole Kidman steals a key scene in the later part of the film, while Claes Bang makes for a solid villain. Supporting work from Hawke and Dafoe is also really strong, and it’s interesting to see Björk show up in a cameo role as ‘The Seeress,’ essentially a witch-like character able to see Amleth’s future.

    While there are a couple of scenes involving a CGI Valkyrie that don’t quite work and do the movie no favors, the production values are otherwise excellent and the attention to detail extremely impressive. The cinematography and location work is consistently very strong, and Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough suits the tone of the movie perfectly, elevating the film’s grim atmosphere by enhancing the action and drama and intrigue inherent in the storyline.

    The Northman – UHD Review:

    The Northman arrives on UHD from Universal Pictures framed at 2.00.1 widescreen in an HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p with HDR and Dolby Vision enhancement. Shot digitally, there’s obviously no grain or damage to note, the image is pristine. Detail is very strong here, even in the many dimly lit interior scenes where much of what is in the background is intentionally shrouded in darkness. Skin tones look great and close up shots really reveal a whole lot to look at, you can make out every pore on every actors face and you really get a feel for the grime and dirt that’s all over most of the sets. You’ll also notice a lot of texture in the clothing and very impressive depth to the image as well. Color reproduction looks great, though this , stylistically and thematically, a very dark movie so you don’t get a lot of bright, primary hues popping like you would on a more conventional looking movie. Either way, the

    The English language Dolby Atmos track on this disc is fantastic. There’s nearly constant surround activity noticeable throughout the movie, from the hectic clashes of the battle and fight scenes to more subtle moments like the ritual scene that Amleth undergoes on his path the manhood. The score is rich in depth, surrounding you at times but never burying the film’s fantastic sound design work or the dialogue. It is, of course, as crystal clear as you’d hope a modern film would be and there’s excellent clarity noticeable throughout. Reference quality stuff, really. Spanish and French DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks are also provided and the disc offers subtitles in English, French and Spanish. Note that there are forced (burned in) subtitles that appear automatically on screen for the scenes where English is not spoken.

    Extras start off with a commentary track from co-writer/director Robert Eggers that goes into quite a bit of detail about the making of the film on a technical level and which also goes into detail about the writing of the script, what some of the motivations where and some of the smaller, more subtle elements in the film you might not pick up on during the first watch. He also discusses the contributions of the cast and crew, shares plenty of experiences from the making of the movie and what it was like on set, goes over the locations used for the shoot and covers some of the effects work as well. It’s quite an interesting listen.

    Universal also provides some shorter featurettes on the disc, starting with the twelve minute An Ageless Epic, which is a selection of cast and crew interviews wherein the participants discuss attempts at historical accuracy and a lot of the detail work that went into making the production values on the film as strong as they are. The Faces Of Vikings is an eleven minute piece that goes over how the different cast members got into character and prepared to bring their characters to life on screen. Amleth's Journey To Manhood is a quick four minute piece that shows off the strange ritual scene that Dafoe character lords over. Shooting The Raid spends four minutes detailing what went into staging and shooting the impressive Viking raid sequence that occurs fairly early in the film once Amleth grows to adulthood. Knattleikr Game is a similar piece that spends three minutes going over what was involved in creating the film's intense game sequence that takes place once Amleth is a slave. Lastly, the five minute A Norse Landscape shows off the locations that the movie took advantage of and some of the production work that went into creating the sets that we see in the movie.

    The disc also includes thirteen minutes of Deleted And Extended Scenes, animated menus and chapter selection options. The UHD comes bundled with a Blu-ray disc containing the same extra features that are included on the UHD disc, as well as an insert with a digital HD download coast and comes packaged with an embossed slipcover.

    The Northman – The Final Word:

    The Northman might not be a perfect film but it is a very good one, with some fantastic performances and excellent production values. Frequently quite tense, it is longer than it needs to be but the good definitely outweighs the bad here and the movie turns out to be an interesting mix of action, drama and revenge shot with loads of style and set to a great score. Universal’s UHD/Blu-ray release is excellent, offering the film up in a beautiful presentation and with a decent selection of extra features.


    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Northman Blu-ray screen caps!

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