A man, having fallen in love with the wrong woman, is sent by the sultan himself on a diplomatic mission to a distant land as an ambassador. Stopping at a Viking village port to restock on supplies, he finds himself unwittingly embroiled on a quest to banish a mysterious threat in a distant Viking land.
During the reign of the Vikings, Kainan, a man from a far-off world, crash lands on Earth, bringing with him an alien predator known as the Moorwen. Though both man and monster are seeking revenge for violence committed against them, Kainan leads the alliance to kill the Moorwen by fusing his advanced technology with the Viking's Iron Age weaponry.
A ruthless mercenary renounces violence after learning his soul is bound for hell. When a young girl is kidnapped and her family slain by a sorcerer's murderous cult, he is forced to fight and seek his redemption slaying evil.
Max von Sydow,
A cultured diplomat joins a band of savage warriors in time to meet an even more fearsome enemy in this historical adventure. In 922 A.D., Ibn Fadlan (Antonio Banderas) is a Muslim emissary from Baghdad en route to meet with the King of Saqaliba when he is captured by a gang of Vikings. While Ibn and his people are intelligent and well-mannered, the Vikings are a rowdy and sometimes unpleasant lot, with an unquenchable appetite for food, alcohol, and women. However, in time he develops an understanding and respect for the Viking warriors and is welcomed into their society by their leader, Buliwyf. However, Ibn must now join them as they return to their homeland once they receive word of an invasion by a huge pack of bloodthirsty invaders who will destroy and eat anything in their path -- including the flesh of the men they have killed.
The 13th Warrior may not match contemporary action film expectations and neither is it strictly a Beowulf allegory. While the film gives a nod to classic Epic literature, the real magic is grown of roots in history. In "Eaters of the Dead" the novel which inspired the film, writer Michael Crichton drew inspiration from the true story of Ibn Fadlan.
Ahmed Ibn Fadlan was a poet and diplomat who lived in the caliphate of Bagdhad in the 10th century. He received a deputation in the year 921 A.D. to journey to the King of the Bulghars of the Volga as an emissary of the Caliph al-Muqtadir. Fadlan outlined the details of this journey in his 'risala' or 'kitlab' (diary/history). Somewhere along the way Fadlan found himself in the extensive company of an Eastern Scandinavian tribe called the Rusiyyah. The Rus were being raided by the Varangians, a more barbarous tribe with customs rooted in pre-history. In his story, Crichton calls the Varangians by the name of another barbaric European tribe, the Wendols. From their name we get the English words vandal and vandalize - so one can imagine in what sorts of business they engaged.
So this is the background for the film. Is the movie history? No, but if one puts aside obvious errors such as Bulwyf's German plate armour (500 years ahead of its time) or another warrior's Roman helmet (500 years after its time) - the movie is enjoyable. The Rus were not Vikings with a capital V. They were Slavs who went a' viking, meaning raiding. Ibn Fadlan spent years among the Bulgars, Khazars and other Slavic tribes of the North. In all his travels, he gave no more detail than what he wrote of his time with the Rus and of their battles. What Crichton has given us is not history, but it is an entertaining point of departure from which to consider history. Next time you watch this movie, imagine you are Ibn Fadlan, come from a life of civilized luxury and suddenly thrown into this strange world. Try listening to the language, understanding his fear. Imagine that you must face cultures and battles entirely alien to your experience. That is what the 13th Warrior is all about. It is the tale of the journey, of the stranger in the strange land. It is a great adventure film, one I've enjoyed dozens of times.
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