The Northman: film reviews, UK cinema release date, 2022 movie trailer, cast with Anya Taylor-Joy - and rating

The film takes inspiration from Scandinavian folklore and Shakespeare, and looks to be one of 2022’s grittier movies

<p>(Photo: Focus Features)</p>

(Photo: Focus Features)

Part inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Northman is an action epic based on the ancient Norse saga of a young Vikingprince named Amleth – who embarks on a quest to kill his uncle, rescue his mother and avenge his father’s murder.

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What is The Northman?

Set in Iceland at the turn of the 10th century, Amleth witnesses the murder at the hands of his evil uncle as a child, and is unable to let the crime go unpunished.

It is thought that the legend of Amleth can be traced back to Icelandic folklore, but there is no concrete evidence that Amleth was a real person.

There are several versions of Amelth’s origin: Danish theologian Saxo Grammaticus wrote Amleth as a master of deviation who used his mind to trick those around him, while the 12th century Chronicle of the Kings of Leijre show Amleth to be brutal as he sets fire to a tent filled with sleeping men.

The new movie will draw from the legends in their various forms.

The Northman is an ambitious and technically dazzling tale of power and succession set in a time of mysticism and human sacrifice where Skarsgard’s strapping avenger meets betrayal with a sharp blade and a colder heart.

Who’s in the cast?

Ethan Hawke stars as King Aurvandil in director Robert Eggers’ Viking epic THE NORTHMAN, a Focus Features release. Credit: Aiden Monaghan / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

The cast of The Northman is filled with Hollywood stars, including Alexander Skarsgard who is playing the role of Amleth, and helped create the movie with director, Robert Eggers.

The actor, known for his - unrelated - role as Eric Northman in True Blood, will be the lead in the new film alongside Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit) playing the role of Olga of the Birch Forest, a sorceress who embarks on a romantic relationship with Amleth.

Skarsgard said that his first day on set for the film was “emotional” as he had created the project alongside Eggers from its inception.

Amelth’s mother is played by Nicole Kidman, and his uncle by Danish actor Claes Bang.

Ethan Hawke plays King Aurvandill while other roles of note include Bjork as the Seeress, Willem Dafoe as Heimir, Kate Dickie (Game of Thrones) as Halldora, and Swedish actor Gustav Lindh as Thorir.

Who’s directing it?

The Northman is directed by Robert Eggers, who has become well known for being a daring director.

The film reunites the American filmmaker with Anya Taylor-Joy and Willem Dafoe, stars of his award-winning films The Witch and The Lighthouse, and with regular cinematographer Jarin Blaschke.

Eggers has never made a movie on this scale before, and had some reservations about making a Viking film, and was deeply concerned by many of the associations that come with them.

“I was initially not interested in Vikings. The macho stereotype and the right-wing misappropriation of Viking culture made me not excited about them,” the director says.

Director Robert Eggers, Anya Taylor-Joy, Alexander Skarsgard and screenwriter Sjon attend the UK Special Screening of The Northman (Photo: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Focus Features and Universal Pictures)

“But I took a trip to Iceland and the landscapes were so incredibly powerful and inspiring that they made me want to pick up Icelandic sagas, and I started to get interested in Viking culture through that.

“Then I had lunch with Alexander Skarsgard, and from there I discovered this Nordic myth of Amleth, which inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and I thought, ‘This is the story everybody knows, everyone can relate to, and I can make a large movie for a big audience while still indulging and exploring Viking culture and mythology’.”

Eggers was particularly anxious not to glorify or celebrate the violence that is often associated with Viking culture, in particular sexual violence.

“You really have to consider every choice you’re making very carefully,” he says. “I only allude to sexual violence, I don’t show it. As far as the other physical violence goes, it’s tricky, because it is a culture that celebrates the violence.

“The sagas often read like action movies from the Eighties in their fight scenes. This is a big popcorn movie, it’s a tent-pole action movie, so there are times when the violence does need to be entertaining and thrilling, but I also don’t want to be glorifying violence, I don’t want to be celebrating violence.”

Is it any good?

The film has been acclaimed by critics, with particular praise aimed at its direction, production values, atmosphere, and the performances of the cast.

At the time of writing, The Northman holds an admirable approval rating of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, which calls the film ”a bloody revenge epic and breathtaking visual marvel,” and says “The Northman finds filmmaker Robert Eggers expanding his scope without sacrificing any of his signature style.”

When can I watch it?

The Northman is released in UK cinemas on 15 April.

Though the film’s production was halted by the Covid-19 pandemic, The Northman - unlike many other big budget movies of the last few years - has thankfully escaped major delays to its release date.

Filming was scheduled to begin in March 2020 in Iceland, but was put on pause by the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis.

As the UK entered lockdown days before the start of the main shoot, the team had to recreate the Scandinavian look and feel of the film in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as well as rethinking locations and set building.

Filming took place between August and December 2020 in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; most of the filming took place at Torr Head, County Antrim and Ballygally, while some scenes were filmed in County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland.

How long is it?

The Northman will be a long watch, clocking in with a running time of two hours and 20 minutes.

What is The Northman’s age rating?

In the UK, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has given The Northman a rating of 15, meaning anyone under that age will be unable to see it in cinemas.

That rating is in place due to “strong bloody violence, gore, sexual violence, sex, nudity”.

The film contains “brief moments of sexual violence”, “verbal references to rape” and “frequent scenes of strong bloody violence, including stabbings and decapitations.”

The film classifications board also warns the prudish against sex scenes that feature “buttock nudity” and “thrusting detail”.