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The Northman (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Robert Eggers has quickly shot up everyone’s favorite indie director’s list with only 3 films under his belt. With a terrific debut in The VVitch and equally awesome follow up The Lighthouse, its easy to see why. In a sea of lots of safe and monotone looking films we see in the blockbuster market, his quirks, weirdness and visuals are of the most refreshing lot. Granted, he’s not for everyone as people who aren’t the biggest film buffs probably have them in the “terrible column”. But for them, his latest film The Northman felt like a bridge between the abstract and mainstream for him. And you’ll be able to check out his Viking tale on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ay. I released back on June 7th with plenty of bonus material in tow. You can order yourself a copy of the film from the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review.

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Film

Prince Amleth is on the verge of becoming a man when his father is brutally murdered by his uncle, who kidnaps the boy’s mother. Two decades later, Amleth is now a Viking who raids Slavic villages. He soon meets a seeress who reminds him of his vow — save his mother, kill his uncle, avenge his father.

The Northman is a pretty brutal, punished and forceful epic that shows Robert Eggers chops with a grander scope and scale of things than we’ve been privy to in the past. Though, he’s previous films have shown him doing quite a lot with a little, here he’s doing that again but in a much different fashion. Much of this revolves around a small village, but its in a such a big locale and given a more city like feel as opposed to operating just around a house or a…ahem…lighthouse. There’s more travel involved here and watching things heat up for big action sequences in that of war or just a “harmless” little game.

This film isn’t just packed to the brim with the directoral talent flashing before the screen, the talent involved here is pretty tremendous. Alexander Skarsgard is quite devoted here and feels absolutely genuine in his role to the point where you are yelling at him at the 3rd act turn because you know where this is headed. Anya Taylor-Joy continues her march as just one of the most interesting people stepping foot in front of cameras and she delights and intrigues here. Both Nicole Kidman and Ethan Hawke are quite magnificent here in smaller roles. And Kidman REALLY gets to play in a couple scenes that feel like she’s a having a great time again in movies.

While The Northman is easy to describe as Eggers “safest” or most accessible of his film. And while that much is true, the devil is in the details as he doesn’t hold back in many areas and truly lets loose and has it all fly out. The film is very grim, ruthless, bloody as hell and pulls off a very hard charged Viking honesty that feels accurate, while at the same time being as a sort of mythological epic come to life. And even with its accessibility, I don’t think I’d deem him having made one “for everyone” just yet.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail The Northman arrives a natural 4K title having been shot and finished with a 4K digital intermediate. And it looks pretty gorgeous with great sharpness and color saturation. The details are quite strong with fascinating looks on things from blades of grass to clothing material. Its easily a top notch look at a brand new film.

Depth: The scale of the film holds quite strong coming home with the depth of field showcasing big landscapes as well as interiors with excellent pushback through windows and doorways that look 3 dimensional. Movements are smooth and natural with no issues from rapid motion causing blur or jitter.

Black Levels: Blacks are natural and quite deep. There are many VERY dark sequences, but this impresses with the radiant information coming through and the contrast provided to help colors pop. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are quite strong for being in the more grody and natural vein. Greens from the valley and pasture look lovely and clothing. Fire brings some awesome glow and the visions sequences have some nice use of the HDR as well.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures like stubble, dried dirt/blood, sweat, bruises, cuts, make-up, wrinkles, freckles and more come through clear as day.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital, French 7.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: The Northman has a rock solid and pretty awesome Atmos track to add to your viewing pleasure. Its a rather well thought out mix with great spacing, layering and depth. The volume placement and balance here works out quite well. There is a lot of fun to have and they really put together a pretty nice “experience” for watching.

Height: From above you get things like debris, arrows flying, fire, birds, waves at accurate times throughout the film.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer has some nice drum hits as well as action like fire bursting, arrows penetrating, doors crashing, punch/kick/shoulder impact hits, sword clanging and more.

Surround Sound Presentation: The room fills quite nicely and builds a great sense of space with this mix that fully utilizes all the channels. A lot of the bigger things are up front but the rear and side channels build some nice ambiance and fill in space to recognize off screen action and transfer of sound from shot to shot. The rolling sound traveling across the room has good force and impact as well.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

The Northman comes with the standard Blu-ray edition and a redeemable digital code.

Audio Commentary

  • With Co-Writer/Director Robert Eggers

Deleted And Extended Scenes (4K, 12:28)

An Ageless Epic (4K, 11:17) – Eggers opens up that they wanted to make the most historically accurate Viking film ever made. He, Alexander Skarsgard, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy and many of the other cast and crew go through a short, but very informative and insightful making of journey for the film.

The Faces Of Vikings (4K, 10:27) – This one goes over a closer look at the cast and the characters they portray in the film. From the what’s on the page to the skills each performer provides.

Amleth’s Journey To Manhood (4K, 3:56) – This featurette takes a deeper look at the wild ritual scene with Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe early in the movie.

Shooting The Raid (4K, 4:10) – The DP joins in here as they talk about how they shot and constructed the raid scene that introduces us to the adult Amleth.

Knattleikr Game (4K, 2:42) – The sport game here, literally called “ball game” when translated, is gone over and focused on in this featurette.

A Norse Landscape (4K, 4:43) – The main compound is discussed and talked about here in terms of location and cinematography and how it fit the story.

Summary

The Northman flat out rocks. And in a year where we are delivered something as life changing as RRR, that it still plays effectively and impressively is a testament to Eggers talents. This disc comes with a great presentation in both audio and video to dazzle eyes and delight the ears. There are plenty of really good extras that could’ve made one great documentary, but getting them here in segments is good too. Definitely pick it up for one of the year’s better films

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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