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Valhalla Rising

Year: 2009
Production Co: BBC Films
Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
Writer: Nicholas Winding Refn/Roy Jacobsen
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen

After the first five minutes I thought it was going to be Terrence Malick by way of Eli Roth or Wes Craven, but the early sense of movement and violence drifted away on the cold wind that permeates the first third and leaves a lyrical film that's hard to stick with even though it's undeniably beautiful to look at.

I couldn't see many parallels between this film and Refn's last (Bronson), but it proves he can turn his eye to many styles, and he does this one just as masterfully as his Tom Hardy psychodrama.

Although you'd never know it from the film, Mads Mikkelsen is a Viking in the 10th century who's been captured by what I think is a Scottish highland tribe who keeps him as a sort of gladiator, tied to a post and pitted against other men in bloody fistfights to the death.

After being sold by the chieftan who owns him, the one-eyed, mute fighter makes good his escape, stumbling through the mountains of heather with the little kid from his village – the only surviving member of the caravan – following him.

As the man and kid slowly bond they come across a small group of soldiers determined to cross the ocean and take Jerusalem back in the name of Christianity. After a misty, slow crossing that nearly kills them all from starvation, they find themselves in a lush forested land that looks beautiful but which the more spiritual members of the band promise is hell, and that One Eye (as he's christened) led them there.

Plot-wise it all goes a bit off the rails from there, Refn interspersing any plotting with long stretches of accomplished but self indulgent imagery that sees the band slowly depleted. It results in a lavish but strangely dry movie.

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