The 13th Warrior
Running Time: 102 minutes
Starring: Antonio Banderas
Directed by: John McTiernan
Rating: 7 out of 10
A cast out Arab journeys north with a group of Vikings to face off against an ancient and deadly evil.
I am not sure why I liked this movie so much. It could be the fact that people think I am part Viking so I felt a kinship to the characters. It could be that it was just a simple tale of good battling unknown evil. What I do know is I was thoroughly entertained during this film. The film centers on Arab courtier Ahmad Ibn Fadlan. He was banished from his homeland after falling in love with a taken woman. He finds himself in the heathen northland amongst barbarians and the like. He is attached against his will to a group of Vikings and must travel with them to their homeland. What evil awaits them is unknown but it is rumored this monster eats the living.
The film does things the right way. It starts with a short back story into the life and subsequent banishment to the north of the Arab Ahmad Ibn Fadlan. He is then quickly introduced to his Viking cohorts and then must proceed north with them. It is in this journey north where the movie really seals you to the story. It is a case of opposites attract. The unclean, vulgar, and untamed Vikings are a stark contrast to the clean, courteous, an educated Arab. In this contrast you find humor and respect where you would never expect to find it. The Vikings win you over with their easy familiarity and believable camaraderie. Besides the Arab each Viking has relatively short introductions and screen time and yet you know you will be sad if any of them die.
Ahmad Ibn Fadlan or Eben as the Vikings call him is cast brilliantly and played by Antonio Banderas. Banderas is a natural as the highly educated but untraveled Arab. The Vikings teach him a thing or two about war while he instructs them on other finer points of life. He was a great fit into the groups fold and it was easy to see him getting along with such strange men to his normal tastes. The Vikings themselves were not the best of actors but highly believable and certainly had the look down. It was easy to get into the story when they looked like they have been companions for years. Although all the Viking actors did an admirable job the standout was definitely the leader Buliwyf played by Vladimir Kulich. He led the group with a strong presence and stood out in the fight scenes as a bulwark of awesomeness.
I have been praising this film but it did have its faults. The action scenes were a dark and edited mess. Because the Vikings look so similar and the lighting was off it was hard to see sometimes who was doing what. People would be hit with arrows or spears and you wouldn’t know until the end of the fight what really happened. So although the scenes of action were well put together when you knew what was going on they were disappointing a lot of the time when you didn’t. I also found the evil human eating monster a letdown for the most part. What started off as a well thought up idea where the bodies of the slain were carried off into the night failed to hold up until the end of this film. Having said my negative piece this movie was just solid. The story and character development more than made up for the shaky action scenes and that is hard to do. A well timed joke or scene of humor eased your way through to the next scene of them fighting for their lives. Bottom line was this is a movie that you will care for the characters and hope they make it and I enjoyed it immensely.
Director John McTiernan knows how to make a decent action film to say the least. Having Predator and Die Hard on your resume allows you to do what you want with an action film and he delivered with this film. I was very confused with his choice of camera work and lighting in a lot of the scenes though. With crisper and more detailed scenes of fighting this movie could easily have been great instead of good. His pacing was perfect with the right amount of dialogue and never having to wait too long in between bloodshed. He also cast perfectly and was able to turn a horrible book (Michael Creighton’s Eater of the Dead) with the help of a great screenplay (Wisher, Lewis) into a movie well worth the watch. When you care what happens to the group you truly have done your job as a director.
I give this movie a recommendation to Action and Epic lovers as it was a well constructed film. 13 maybe unlucky to some and lucky to others for you it will just be a good time.
T Factor + If you are forgiving during your Action films this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you don’t like Antonio Banderas this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: King Arthur, Kingdom of Heaven