Silence is not the immediate reaction I had to this movie. I was in shock and awe by the brilliant landscapes and brutal style of the film, but not silenced because of some distaste for this movie. You have to be silent in order to soak this movie in. It’s not often that a movie deals entirely with the image presented in order to tell a story. This movie, in a phrase, is old school. This may as well be a badass silent action film. That’s exactly what I took away from it.
And this is all Nicolas Winding Refn’s intent. After having seen (and reviewed) his other
film, Drive, I don’t think I can get enough of what this Danish director is bringing to the table. With an archaic and visceral feel to this movie, it plays out in a slow manner, but many of the scenes will stand out to you in your mind way after its all been played out. Same thing goes for Drive too.
If I had to guess how many pages the dialogue took up in this film, I’d probably say a total of 5-6 pages. And that’s all it took to portray the characters onscreen. You know One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen) is a hardass who never found his voice and expresses himself
in violent outbursts. You even have a young child actor, named The Boy (Maarten Stevenson) who understands the idea of dramatic timing and delivery in this film. And that’s rare in such a adult themed film. Saying less gives so much more, and that’s what this film knew how to do.
Basic plot, everyone?
So, One-Eye (Mikkelsen) is a slave held in Scotland against his will. He is passed from barbaric tribe to barbaric tribe in order to fight and kill for the honor of the tribe that owns him. He is such a good fighter, that he has to be leashed up in order to set him at the same level as other fighters. Sleeping in a cage all night with little food or contact with others, he befriends The Boy (Stevenson), who shows him the only kindness he’ll ever know.
Upon being switched between tribes, One-Eye uses the almost-prophetic visions in red he receives at the beginning of
the film in order to kill and escape. Kidnapping The Boy, he heads off for freedom. But not before he encounters a roving band of Crusaders looking and itching for a Crusade to wage. With One-Eye and The Boy in tow, the Christians take them on a boat ride to Hell, and eventually the new world.
As I said earlier, the locales are what impressed me most about this movie. Being shot in Scotland, I had little basis for what it actually looked like in a real context, and so this movie works on all levels for Scotland and America. The absence of human life really works well to isolate the feeling of the film, heightening the chances of death and lack of social norms in a clearly barbaric society. No one is safe in this
film, and it almost makes you feel uncomfortable when people turn on each other for survival.
Mikkelsen, that one-eyed badass from Casino Royale, is just as good in this movie as well. The cast is relatively unknown to me, which really works for this movie. Because who would be recognizable way back in 1000 A.D.? I just wanna give a lot of credit to the special effects and
make-up people as well in this movie, because I’ve never seen a more realistic head bashing than in this movie. Visually brutal to the point where your eyes bleed. Hardcore shizz.
The overall delivery was right up my alley. Sometimes I’m just in the mood for an artistically brutal and human psyche revealing film. It’ll make people uncomfortable, but it’ll be an unforgettable experience in the end. No real complaints, 8.9 out of 10.