Valhalla Rising is the story of ‘One Eye’ a mute Scandinavian slave who frees himself from captivity in Scotland. Accompanied by the boy who bought him his slop, ‘One Eye’ ends up in tow with Crusaders making their way to the Holy Land to reclaim it ‘in the name of Christ’.
I’ll start with the good points. Valhalla Rising does have integrity to its story, though not the most exciting, it does stick to its fable closely and doesn’t deviate for the sake of thrills.
The score for the film is probably my favourite thing about it, although barely noticeable it accents the movie well and does not in any way overshadow the film. At times it would have been nice to have some more powerful and engaging music than what is delivered, but overall it plays its part well.
The backdrops of the film are quite nice to look at, and coming from a New Zealander, trust me when I say that the scenery is represented quite stunningly, and various wide shots of the landscapes show this off very well.
The movie drags for the first half of the film (well, just a bit over if we are to be honest), and I will admit it is a bit hard to sit through, but if you do manage this the film does deliver a relatively decent piece of cinema near the end. Although not decent enough to stimulate most who have suffered the first half of the film.
Sadly, the story may be an interesting premise, but its bought to the table relatively early in the film, and lasts for at least the full first half of the film before anything else really happens. And once something else happens . . . a lot of ‘not much’ happens within it. It doesn’t help that throughout the entirety of the film we must be shown One Eye staring, either at something or into the distance, enough times to make a drinking game out of it.
Unfortunately, as eager as I was to see this film, it has more than its fair share of downsides. The film plays along a very somber and overly melodramatic tone for the majority of it, with scenes of extended wonderment that lead to nothing more than a scene transition (I’m not even joking). Some of the characters sport voices that don’t seem to fit anywhere, not the landscape, nor their surrounding characters.
More so, even the star power and acting ability I have come to associate with the star Mads Mikkelsen seems to be lost on this feature. Admittedly he plays his part well, being able to convey his character without the use of the spoken word, and even with his facial features limited by having only one eye. Exceptionally he delivers each of his ‘lines’ with very little tools at his disposal, and does it well. Sadly, they don’t seem to amount to much more import than small moments within the greater tale.
Some archaic blood effects and transition effects also harm this film and give it a sense of illegitimacy that it would have retained with using no CG blood effects or transitions.
If you’ve been oggling this film though, I would suggest maybe renting a copy first or borrowing one off a friend before spending the full price for the film.
Although a relatively good film, Valhalla Rising suffers from some set backs that prevent it from becoming a great film and in turn giving it a lite 5/10 in my books.
Features present are an audio commentary with Director Nicolas Winding Refn, and Journalist Alan Jones; A ‘making of’ featurette’, and a theatrical trailer. None of which are particularly impressive, however their inclusion does give this film a bit more credence when it comes to consumer service than even some big budget films (Avatar’s first blu-ray release for example).
The special features are quite impressive, at least for a movie that isn’t a blockbuster and one that some would not have even heard of.
Review by Nortallica
Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.