Another Russian Viking tale like The Stronghold movie. You can read my review of it here. This time around the movie is of much higher quality, at least in the visuals and acting department. It is telling another story from Russian folklore that one would have to know in order to know what exactly is going on. I had to read a little to put some of the pieces together. If you don’t know anything about the story it is trying to tell, then you will think it is the rise of the half breed brother as he seeks revenge on one brother for killing the other. While in fact, the story is about Vladimir the Great. I don’t know all the facts but from what I gathered it isn’t completely accurate. I don’t know much about the 10th century.
Anyway, about the movie. It starts with a hunting party getting interrupted and quickly leading to the death of one of three Russian brothers while being chased by the other. Honestly it looked like a freak accident to me. This in turn leads to the third brother, referred to as the half breed, coming to seek revenge and take the crown as prince. Our hero, Vladimir, it joined by Viking mercenaries who fight with him. They take the town where his brother died after they refuse to help. This leads to Vlad also taking his dead brother’s wife as his own.
From here they head to Kiev where they find the city deserted and eventually arrange a meeting with the murderous brother. The meeting doesn’t last very long but Vlad kills his brother. I admit, I had to watch the scene at least twice to try to understand what happened. Not a lot of talking and straight to the point, of a spear. Now this is where I found it interesting because most films would have ended. Our hero got the girl and revenged his brother’s death all while becoming prince. But when I looked at the clock the movie wasn’t even half over. I found myself thinking, what could possibly happen now. To extend this film they replace one enemy with another. A follower of the now dead brother vows revenge against Vlad.
After a few more battles and some lack luster storytelling the Roman’s arriving to help Vlad against his new enemy. This also is around the time he starts to see more of Christianity. He retakes a city for the Roman’s where he is reunited with his recently deceased brother’s wife since she helped him take the city without bloodshed. By no bloodshed I mean the only people who die are some Mongol mercenaries. Vlad then converts to Christianity.
There is a bit more to the movie but that is the short version, mind you it is over two hours long.
As far as acting goes, I think they did a good job since the entire thing is not in English so I can’t tell how some of the words are supposed to be spoken. Mostly it seems to be Russian with some Old-Norse thrown in from time to time when the Vikings talk to one another.
For this type of movie, I wasn’t expecting the visuals to be as good as they were. Some of the CGI parts can be spotted but others switch seamlessly. It only got my emotions going during a battle between Vlad’s men and the Mongol raiders attacking Kiev. Something about the hopelessness of the situation and having his men barely survive. The Viking Berserk unfortunately was cut down but even his small moment was exciting to watch. This was maybe twenty minutes worth in the entire movie. The camerawork wasn’t bad, lighting was decent, but the rain however was overplayed and seemed a bit on and off although I am not sure if that was meant to be religious symbolism for miracles.
Character development is present. Mostly around Vlad since it is supposed to show is transformation to Christianity from Slavic Paganism. There is even a scene where he confesses his sins. He goes from a killer to someone who even spares his enemy in the end.
Despite the language barrier and my lack of understand for Russian 10th century folklore the movie is visual pleasing and the combat is satisfactory. I feel the Vikings are portrayed well everything is perfect. Its true downfall is the storytelling, or lack thereof. It more of less is someone’s interpretation of historical events.
I would give the movie three stars because it surely did not disappoint. With room only for small visual cleanup and a better story. It was more than I expected to get. If you want to kill some time and watch some Vikings fight, then I would add this to your watch list. The visuals alone are noteworthy for a film of its type but if you miss it, don’t fret.