Around 1000 A.D., a man (Mads Mikkelsen) is enslaved by vikings for his almost supernatural fighting strength. When he is sold from one king to the next, he manages to escape [among other things because he can see the future] together with a boy (Maarten Stevenson). When they meet a group of templars, the boy and the warrior – now called One-Eye – decide to join forces with them to go to the holy land.
Valhalla Rising was completely different from what I expected. Probably because I had only seen the trailer before, which emphasises every brutal moment. Anyway, what I thought I would get was a viking bloodbath; what I actually got was a calm, a little trippy movie with occasional bouts of violence. And once I got over my expectations, I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Nicolas Winding Refn is a talented director, and he works with a talented cinematographer. Together, they make the most of the beautiful Scottish landscape, which is a wonderful background for anything. [Also, most people talked with a Scottish accent, that’s always a plus.]
But the movie wouldn’t have worked without Mads Mikkelsen, who is absolutely amazing. He never says a word in the film – and isn’t actually necessary anyway. [And it is frankly astonishing how hot he is despite the dirt and that haircut…]
The story itself is interesting, open to interpretation and begs for a re-watch or three. [Personally I’m pretty convinced that One-Eye is Odin: It’s called Valhalla Rising, he only has one eye and supernatural strength and I recently re-read American Gods. Of course, I think it’s Odin. Which leads to so many more questions and I don’t know enough about Norse mythology to answer them.]
Valhalla Rising is an extraordinary movie. I don’t know how many people will like the stretch between gore and art, between ultra-realism and fantasy. But people like me who like to fall between genre cracks, will be utterly entranced.
Summarising: Do see it. Just don’t expect the movie from the trailer. And you might want to get the DVD, to be able to re-watch it instantly.