Film: Valhalla Rising (Danish/English, 2009)

4/3/11

Somewhere between "Excalibur," "Gladiator" and an indie art film (yes, believe it or not) is "Valhalla Rising."

Much like most of the stuff I truly love...well, let's just say this is definitely not for everyone.

And if ‘The Expendables’ is your level of sophistication...this movie probably isn’t for you, as there are excellently directed and very low paced (but awesome) plot scenes along with plenty of cinematography, which only enhances the epic (and brutal) A+ action scenes.

Warning: there is at least one disembowelment going on here and there in the film but it’s all done with the finesse of director, Nicolas Winding Refn, noted for his ace work on "The Pusher" series (also highly recommended) and "Bronson."  

Deceivingly marketed like a "300" movie via the poster, "Valhalla Rising" is not what it seems to portray. This mythology-inspired saga is a rare piece of art, with its dreamlike Scottish-filmed cinematography, ambient soundtrack; and philosophical concepts about war, faith, and mortality.

 
All of these factors truly make this film a visual feast and somewhat bewildering psychological experience (in a good way). 
 
Cut into 6 chapters: Wrath, Silent Warrior, Men Of God, The Holy Land, Hell and The Sacrifice, this is the type of movie where even the slow parts are riveting and action packed without action, if that makes sense.  
 
A great thinking man’s high octane film pondering the concepts of war, religion and mortality. 
 
Synopsis
 
Set in the proverbial boonies of the medieval Nordic dark, countryside in 1000 A.D., One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen), ( yes he only has one eye) is a mysterious, fearsome, warrior-slave, who finally escapes from captivity with the help of a young boy, Are.  
 
After destroying his opponents, One-Eye runs into a band of men going on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which One-Eye joins.  
 
They set out to sea, but get caught in a horrible storm where an endless mist consumes their vessel. After forty days of drifting, the group find themselves in a land that seems strange yet familiar. 
 
But they are not in Holy Land. They somehow have reached North America, where they are immediately overwhelmed by the vast land and its intimidating locals (aka the Indians).
 
Soon ‘unseen’ enemies attack them, and they individually die in the hands of the invisibles. In the meantime, One-Eye’s supposedly search for his true origins is compromised when Are is held captive.  
 
As the mysterious foes unveil themselves, One-Eye recognizes that he has ultimately discovered his identity but at a very expensive cost.  One Eye, with his ability to have flash visions where he can see into the future...discovers how his demise will be met.