Valhalla Rising (R15)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner30/04/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Visually striking and extraordinarily bleak, this is a mesmerisingly strange film with a powerful central performance from Mads Mikkelsen.

What's it all about?
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (who made Bronson), Valhalla Rising stars Mads Mikkelsen as a silent, nameless warrior known as One-Eye. As the film opens, One-Eye is being kept in a cage in order to fight in a series of brutal one-on-one matches, but with the help of a young boy, he soon escapes from his captors and kills them all, dispatching one in particular with an extremely visceral disembowelling.

With the boy tagging along and speaking for him, One-Eye joins a group of self-proclaimed Christian Vikings (including James Ramsey, Jamie Sives and Gary Lewis) who are heading for Jerusalem in order to begin a crusade. However, when they arrive at their destination, it turns out they've actually reached the New World and the Vikings are gradually picked off by Native American Indians.

The Good
Mads Mikkelsen is extremely good as One-Eye, creating a hypnotic presence even with no dialogue and only one eye (the other is buried under a prosthetic scarred eye socket). The boy (unnamed on screen and not attributed in the credits) is also excellent, despite looking like the blonde offspring of Ron Perlman.

Strangely, the film continues the recent trend for Scottish Vikings (see also How To Train Your Dragon) and there's strong support from the various heavily bearded Christian Vikings, with James Ramsey, Jamie Sives and Gary Lewis the stand-outs.

The Great
The film is strikingly shot, with bleak landscapes enveloped in swirling mists and some astonishing sound design work (the howling winds are genuinely chilling), all of which is heightened by the fact that there's almost no dialogue.

The film is mesmerisingly strange in places. There's an awful lot of just standing around and staring and this is occasionally punctuated either by One-Eye's terrifyingly weird hallucinatory visions or by moments of extreme violence; either way, it's impossible to tear yourself away and there's also a weird, Tarkovsky-like spiritual quality to the film, to the point where you'll find yourself thinking about it for days afterwards.

Worth seeing?
Valhalla Rising is a visually striking, impressively directed film that exerts a powerfully hypnotic grip and plays out like a terrible dream. Highly recommended and one of the strangest films of the year.

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Valhalla Rising (R15)
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Content updated: 16/12/2019 00:23

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