Forced for some time to be a fighting slave, a pagan warrior escapes his captors with a boy and joins a group of Crusaders on their quest to the Holy Land.Forced for some time to be a fighting slave, a pagan warrior escapes his captors with a boy and joins a group of Crusaders on their quest to the Holy Land.Forced for some time to be a fighting slave, a pagan warrior escapes his captors with a boy and joins a group of Crusaders on their quest to the Holy Land.
The Valhalla Gates are open, but the Gods are sleeping
Damn! This was, like, the most frustrating kind of cinematic disappointment you can imagine. On one hand you expect a completely different and much more virulent kind of action movie, but on the other hand you totally can't claim that this was a terrible movie. Okay, admittedly, I expected non-stop swashbuckling, blood-dripping Viking spectacle and relentless violence from "Valhalla Rising", but can you blame me? The title and the awesome film poster, depicting a chained warrior with only one eye and war symbols painted on his muscular chest, alone were enough to make my mouth water. There are far too few genuine Viking movies out there, and since this is a local Scandinavian product, I honestly assumed it would have been a kick-ass movie. Instead, "Valhalla Rising" is a slowly unfolding and brooding epic with melancholic themes and unimaginably beautiful photography. Mads Mikkelsen, Denmark most talented actor even though he doesn't speak a single word in this film, stars as the charismatic and fierce warrior One-Eye (aptly baptized by his 10-year-old travel companion) who lives the miserable life in captivity. Viking tribes use him as their deadliest weapon in random gladiator games until, one day; he breaks his chains and regains freedom. Followed around by the one boy who treated him somewhat decently, One-Eye joins a clan of self-acclaimed crusaders intending to travel to Jerusalem with a vessel and re-conquer the holy land of God. The pacing is incredibly (at times even intolerably) slow and there's hardly any dialog in the film at all. More than once, "Valhalla Rising" actually reminded me of the legendary spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Leone, and particularly "Once Upon A Time in the West". That movie – one of the greatest ones ever made, by the way – is also very slow and seemingly purposeless, but simultaneously boosts an atmosphere that is consistently ominous and unsettling. "Valhalla Rising" exists of multiple chapters, seven in total if I remember correctly, but nevertheless maintains a simple and chronological narrative. The crusade to Jerusalem is a marvelous symbolic criticism towards warfare in the name of religion; although I remain convinced the journey could have used action & bloodshed instead of hints at supernaturalism. Mikkelsen (the bad dude in Casino Royale) is terrific and it's remarkable how he must trained to get a body like that, but his character could have been so much more fascinating. Writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn ("Fear X", "Bronson") is definitely courageous and visionary, but I just hope that his film won't be misinterpreted or inaccurately promoted. If sold as a wildly exciting and blood-soaked Viking spectacle in Hollywood or so, "Valhalla Rising" is bound to become very unpopular.
- Apr 22, 2010
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