May Film Reviews

Harry Moore

The Northman

From the director of The Lighthouse and The Witch comes an epic tale of revenge in the grim and violent age of the Vikings. When the king (Ethan Hawke) is murdered by his brother (Claes Bang), who also claimed the queen (Nicole Kidman) for his own, the young prince Amleth (Oscar Novak) vows to avenge his father’s death. After growing to be a powerful warrior (Alexander Skarsgård), Amleth pursues his bloody vengeance against his uncle. 

With his previous releases, director Robert Eggers established himself as one of the most interesting visionaries working today, able to create historical worlds that feel grounded and real. With The Northman, Eggers is able to work on a far larger canvas than he was given access to in his other work, and he doesn’t disappoint. From the first shots of the film, it is clear the filmmaker is in complete control of his craft, pulling the audience into this ancient world through beautifully composed cinematography and immaculately designed costumes and sets, as well as authentically showing the lives and rituals of the characters. The brutality of the world never feels gratuitous, but, rather, feels true to the historical setting of the story, even when it becomes highly visceral and unflinching in the depiction of gore. All the actors are coaxed into giving fully committed performances that feel authentic to the characters and the story that is being told. 

Skarsgård inhabits his role, making Amleth into a beast-like figure when swinging his weapon, but he is also able to bring out the frail vulnerability of his traumatized inner child who witnessed his father’s brutal murder and his mother’s kidnapping. He is fully believable as a Viking warrior that is guided purely by rage and revenge. Anya Taylor-Joy continues to grow her esteemed career with another impressive performance as Olga, an enslaved woman who has chosen to aid Amleth in his quest for revenge. Since her breakout role in The Witch, Taylor-Joy has proven on numerous occasions to be a highly capable actor, able to manage a range of dialects and characters with ease. She is set to be a star for years to come. Kidman gives what is perhaps her most vital performance in years, creating a character that is duplicitous and engaging, while Bang is able to make what should be a repugnant villain into fleshed-out character with depth and an air of sympathy about him. Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe are both reliably memorable in their brief parts. 

While the plot may be fairly archetypal, handily borrowing from classic tales like Hamlet, it is Eggers’ vision and skill as a filmmaker that sets this up as an enthralling epic, featuring some of the most brutal and distinct set pieces that have been in any film in recent years, and one that deserves to be seen on the big screen.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Nicolas Cage stars as Nick Cage in this laugh-out-loud action comedy that sends up the actor’s public persona with a refreshing amount of self-awareness coming from an award-winning Hollywood star. After failing to secure another role and facing financial ruin, actor Nick Cage is offered a lucrative opportunity to be a guest at the birthday party of the wealthy and eccentric Javi (Pedro Pascal), a self-proclaimed superfan of the actor. But soon after arriving at Javi’s home, Cage is confronted by a pair of CIA agents (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz) who reveal that Javi is, in fact, a violent arms dealer, and then recruit the actor to spy on Javi. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is one of the better comedies to come out in theaters in recent times, as it deftly satirizes the film industry and the ego of movie stars, and delivers on some thrilling action, making the film comparable to Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder. Cage plays up his persona to some great comedic effect, playing his onscreen counterpart rather aloof and on the verge of flying off the rails, indulging in some of his acting hallmarks with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek—and for the diehard Cage fans, there are plenty of Easter eggs and references to many works of his long and eclectic career. Pascal shows again why he is among the most sought-after actors working today, making Javi into a very likable and funny character who can also conjure shades of menace to himself. Overall, Massive Talent is a fun and funny comedy that plays to the strengths of its two leads and will almost certainly put you in the mood to re-watch Con Air.