Valhalla Rising


(2009) ★★★★

BBC2: Sunday 24 May, M’t

Men bearing crosses forced the heathen to the fringes of the earth… Mads Mikkelsen is the brutal mute warrior One Eye, bedevilled by blood-drenched dreams while being held captive by pagan clan chieftains in the Scottish highlands. The boy (Maarten Stevenson) who sticks by him says he’s from Hell, ‘the other side of the ocean’. There’s a strange, other-wordly quality to this savage saga, aligning it more with the Dawn of Man prologue in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and the odd sci-fi Viking fantasy Outlander than with the Roman adventures Centurion and The Eagle. At times it’s so stern and unyielding, it’s like watching a disturbing wildlife film on an insanely dangerous species. And it gets even worse when the Christians show up. The music’s pretty heavy, too. Refn really seemed to be on to something here. “Valhalla Rising was meant to be a Viking action film,” he said at the time, “but I ended up making a Viking science-fiction film.” Alas, he went on to lose the plot in the wildly overrated Drive and then completely lost control with the terrible Only God Forgives

Certificate: 15
Duration: 89min