"Fah pulls out all the stops to deliver a thrilling ride."

If the Vikings were around today, they would almost certainly be filmmakers. Their legendary love of battle was matched by a love of poetry and they were splendid storytellers. It's disappointing that most modern films about them don't live up to the standards they set, but Northmen, despite its small budget, is an exception. The tale it tells may be a simple one with no big surprises, but it's gripping from start to finish, a genuinely exciting 11th century action movie.

It begins on the Scottish coast, where a group of Vikings is shipwrecked. After a daring climb up the cliffs (one does wonder if they might not have gone round), they discover they are trapped behind enemy lines, and they also acquire a prisoner the lady Inghean (Charlie Murphy), whose ransom might buy them freedom - if only they can get her south to Danish-controlled lands. The usual problem applies: there are others drawn to such a valuable prize, and Inghean's father sends out a group of mercenaries to get her back - mercenaries who would rather see her dead.

Copy picture

Following our Norse heroes as they trek across the rugged land (much of it actually South Africa, not that you'd notice), the film stays remarkably true to what is known about the period, from the technologies them men use to the way they interact with one another. Even the pronunciation of Old Norse names is spot on. The actors rehearsed together for some time before shooting and it shows in the easy way they relate both to the period detail and to one another, creating the natural chemistry you'd expect in a group of men used to fighting side by side, even if they have their disagreements. This makes it much easier for viewers to connect with them and care about their fate. At first disorientated and understandably fearful, they quickly bring their intelligence to bear on their problems and come up with ingenious solutions.

Tom Hopper is suitably charismatic as the Viking leader, but is not overplayed - the group dynamic is what matters. There's an impressive debut turn from Johan Hegg of death metal band Amon Amarth, whilst Ed Skrein contributes some welcome personality to the otherwise formulaic role of lead bad guy Hjorr. Murphy acquits herself well with a character who gets a fair amount to do and quickly escapes the damsel in distress bracket, and Ryan Kwanten is fun as a Christian monk with impressive fighting skills.

All of the fights in this film are well choreographed, and despite a couple of unfortunate slips where it's all too obvious that a blade is going under an arm rather than into a chest, they are generally convincing. Injuries are as brutal as you'd expect and the variety of the fighting means it's always interesting. In proper adventure movie style, we also get scenes with a rope bridge and quicksand (well, mud) as Fah pulls out all the stops to deliver a thrilling ride.

It's a crying shame that this film didn't get a UK big screen release. If action and adventure are your thing, you'd be a fool to miss it on the small screen.

Reviewed on: 20 Apr 2015
Share this with others on...
A group of stranded Vikings must make a dangerous journey with hunters on their tail.

Director: Claudio Fäh

Writer: Bastian Zach, Matthias Bauer

Starring: Ed Skrein, Ryan Kwanten, Tom Hopper, James Norton, Charlie Murphy

Year: 2014

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Switzerland, Germany, South Africa


Search database: