Viking | Bloodthirsty medieval epic stirs Russian patriotic fervour

Viking Danila Kozlovsky Prince Vladimir
(Image credit: © 2017 Arrows Films.)

Viking Danila Kozlovsky Prince Vladimir

History is a symptom. The diagnosis is us.

Don’t be misled by the title. The subject of the bloodthirsty medieval epic Viking is actually a heroic figure from Russian history: Prince Vladimir, the 10th-century ruler who abandoned paganism and made Orthodox Christianity the state religion.

Starting out as the ‘half-breed son of a slave’, Vladimir schemes and claws his way to power, overcoming his princely half-brothers and fending off other challenges along the way. It’s hard, at times, to get to grips with the story’s internecine strife, and the odd moment of unintentional comedy supplied by the subtitles (‘Give him the chalice of fury’; ‘Get the Berserker ready’) doesn’t help.

Give it a chance, though, and the film does pick up a brutal momentum. Historians were quick to seize on supposed anachronisms and errors, while others wondered whether Putin saw himself reflected in his namesake Vladimir (played by hunky leading man Danila Kozlovsky). But the film’s patriotic fervour made it a big box-office hit in Russia.

Certificate 15. Runtime 132 mins. Director Andrei Kravchuk

Viking available on DVD & Digital from Arrow Films.


Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.