The Northman Movie Review: Robert Eggers Crafts Bold Viking Epic with Alexander Skarsgård and Anya Taylor-Joy

Review: If The Northman isn’t Robert Eggers’ best movie, it’s at least his boldest. It’s finetuned and pinpoint beyond what you’d expect from an already exacting director, and the stunning ensemble cast is entirely dedicated to their profound roles – all led by Alexander Skarsgård and Anya Taylor-Joy.

alexander skarsgård in the northman 2022 film
Alexander Skarsgård in The Northman (2022) from Robert Eggers

I’m glad that Robert Eggers was able to give us one behemoth, big budget epic before the Hollywood studio system decided his interests were too insular and specific for general audiences. Because despite the box office mediocrity of The Northman – which likely didn’t earn its money back with a $70 million haul against a reported near-$90 million budget – not a single ounce of talent and craft is wasted among one of the decade’s defining visual achievements.

And to say that The Northman feels like the greatest statement from Eggers thus far is nothing to scoff at. Both The Witch (notoriously codenamed The Vvitch) and The Lighthouse have immense craft and meticulous shot design from beginning to end. Every frame and sequence is pinpoint and exact, as if Robert Eggers couldn’t sleep at night knowing one detail was out of place.

If that’s the case with The Northman, rest assured that the director is sleeping soundly. Even though it includes its fair share of extravagant action sequences and a diverse cast that manages to span eras and nationalities, it all gels into a finetuned and detailed achievement for the artform. I may have slightly underestimated The Northman when it came out, but I feel that’s aligned with how the industry at-large accepted this colossal picture.

The Northman is about as sturdy and structured as movies get, and although you can feel the director’s authorial thumbprints seeping through this daring historical epic, they never intrude – the action and narrative engine are always churning strong enough to keep you invested. There’s never a need to feel like you should like it for its craft and intricacies. The Northman also manages to be a thoroughly enjoyable, relentless experience that you can still take on face value.

Which is easier to achieve when assessing such a strong cast that Robert Eggers has to work with. Alexander Skarsgård headlines the film, and living in a post-Succession world, the man really beefed up to play such an intense role. There’s a physicality to his performance that never wanes. He’s always in control, and when a supporting cast of Ethan Hawke, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, and a hilariously devoted Willem Dafoe is involved, your lead performer needs to continuously serve as that anchor without being overshadowed by the other talent at hand.

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Opposite Skarsgård is Anya Taylor-Joy, who also appeared in Robert Eggers’ debut The Witch. I think her occasionally dry, under spoken delivery works quite well with Eggers’ tone. She seems to best represent the style he goes for, and this is the second example of her working with him and delivering remarkable results. She conveys mysterious sympathy well, and working with a director who unnerves you with the slightest details helps to effortlessly compound her inner motivations.

And it’s hard not to think about The Northman without thinking of the movie’s ending, which is Robert Eggers really going for it. In a big budget, massive scale film, he leaves it all on the table. Seeing this in the theater a couple years back is one of the movie moments I’ll truly remember from the 2020s. Alexander Skarsgård and Claes Bang going toe-to-toe in one final showdown that is stunning and gory, delicate and thumping.

If The Northman isn’t Robert Eggers’ best movie, it’s at least his boldest. It’s finetuned and pinpoint beyond what you’d expect from an already exacting director, and the stunning ensemble cast is entirely dedicated to their profound roles. In the wrong hands, the tone of The Northman could be lost and ridiculous. But Robert Eggers instead further establishes himself as the darkest, grimiest auteur in a new generation.


Genre: Action, Adventure

Watch The Northman (2022) on VOD here

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The Northman Film Cast and Credits

the northman movie 2022


Alexander Skarsgård as Amleth

Anya Taylor-Joy as Olga of the Birch Forest

Nicole Kidman as Queen Gudrún

Claes Bang as Fjölnir the Brotherless

Ethan Hawke as King Aurvandil War-Raven

Willem Dafoe as Heimir the Fool


Director: Robert Eggers

Writers: SjónRobert Eggers

Cinematography: Jarin Blaschke

Editors: Louise FordPaolo Buzzetti

Composers: Sebastian GainsboroughRobin Carolan

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