Thursday, August 6, 2015

Northmen - A Viking Saga Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Northmen – A Viking Saga tells the story of a group of Vikings in the ninth century who sets sail for Britain, aiming to plunder the rich monasteries in the northern part of the island. But a storm smashes the ship to pieces on the rocks off the coast of Scotland, the only part of Britain without any Viking settlements. Soon thereafter, the daughter of the Scottish King falls into their hands and the Vikings see this as an opportunity to demand a large ransom. The King immediately sets his 'wolfpack' — a group of mercenaries well known for their savagery — on the Vikings. The “Northmen” with their hostage now have to force their way through the rough highlands, where they meet the brave and mysterious Christian monk Conall (Ryan Kwanten). Having the wolfpack close on their heels, a desperate race against time begins. A battle over life and death...
Film (3 out of 5 stars)
The opening narration is extremely hard to understand so the history of this ‘saga’ might not be that important.  A group of Vikings have been banished from their homes.  Led by Asbjorn (Tom Hopper) they have survived a shipwreck and washed up on the Scottish shores.  They find a young woman locked inside a wagon.  The woman turns out to be Princess Inghean (Charlie Murphy), daughter of Kin Dunchaid (Danny Keogh).  The Vikings hold the Princess for ransom, hoping to buy their way into a Viking settlement. 

One of their clan is injured and they head into the woods searching for a healer. The group meets Conall the cursed monk (Ryan Kwanten).  He gives the men shelter and his tower is attacked by the King’s men.  As Conall helps the group make their way underground to safety it becomes clear that the King’s men plan to return his daughter but aren’t concerned with keeping her alive in the process. The film is amazingly well done. The action sequences are clean and precise. The sets and costumes look genuine and authentic. The film is dark and the characters are dirty and worn. If you’re looking for a film with the gritty feel of the old world, Northmen won’t disappoint.  

Unfortunately the story is not very well developed. We don’t get to know the Vikings before their ship wreck and they spend most of the film running away. There isn’t enough depth to the characters to put the viewer on edge as they are forced to the edge of a cliff by the King’s army. I must admit, that I only agreed to view and review this movie because it stars has "True Blood’s" Ryan Kwanten.  He was moderately charming in The Right Kind of Wrong and Knights of Badassdom was quite an experience so you never know what you’re going to get.  It wasn’t until Comic Con that I heard him speak his native Australian accent, which makes him completely adorable. The actors all did a great job, Ryan Kwanten included, but they just didn’t have a well-developed story and the accompanying dialogue to work with.  With almost a complete lack of character development, I still enjoyed the film. However, if I want to see someone take on an army I’ll watch Braveheart and if I want to see 
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Northmen - A Viking Saga is presented in 1080p high definition.  In underground caves, in the dark of night and inside tower walls, fine detail is excellent and textures come alive.  The environment of the film is dark and dirty and that translates extremely well with deep black levels.  Even by torchlight, there are very few issues, and none that detract from the viewing experience.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Northmen - A Viking Saga's HD 5.1 soundtrack does not disappoint. Pouring rain and crashing waves sound like they are all around you. Battle cries, swords clashing and horses galloping offer an immersive and complete audio experience. The opening narration is difficult to understand because of accent, not sound levels.
Extras (1 out of 5 stars)
The Blu-ray contains only a single special feature.
  • Northmen: A Look Inside A Viking Saga (11:57) – This is your basic behind the scenes featurette including a look at the story and characters and locations.
Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
Northmen - A Viking Saga doesn’t quite live up to the word saga in its title. The film runs just over 90 minutes and probably should have been a two hour film, giving some time for character development and background. The acting is better than expected and the Blu-ray provides exceptional audio and video quality. The action sequences are bloody and realistic so don’t show this to your young child that may be curious about Viking history. This is a battle film, not a Viking film. The film is worth watching, but isn’t likely one you’ll return to for repeat viewings.  

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