A Viking Saga: The Darkest Day, Viking: The Darkest Day (2013)
Directed by: Chris Crow
Written by: Chris Crow, Graham Davidson
Starring: Christopher Godwin, Elen Rhys, Joshua Richards, Marc Pickering, Mark Lewis Jones
VIKING: THE DARKEST DAY
Directed by Chris Crow
VIKING: THE DARKEST DAY is a terrific, dark and gritty Viking saga that feels rather authentic compared to other period indie films I’ve seen in recent times. Unlike the likes of Spartacus, you won’t be seeing any rippling torsos or chiseled bodies on display here, and VIKING: THE DARKEST DAY is all the better for it. The story focuses on young monk Hereward (Marc Pickering), an orphan who was raised by the monestry and by his Monk ‘brother’ Athelstan (Christopher Godwin). Athelstan and Herward are tasked with transporting the Holy Gospel of Lindisfarne to the Iona monestry, after the Viking invasion slaughtered everyone in its path. Being the word of God, the holy book is treasured by the Christians of England and the monestry fear the world shall be swallowed up in darkness should the Norsemen get their hands on it. With the help of sole surviving Saxon warrior Aethelwulf (Mark Lewis Jones), they must survive the viking onslaught that will stop at nothing until they get their hands on the omnipotent book.
Shot in the woodland for the majority of the film, the action feels raw and earthy, especially with the leafless trees and bleak landscape echoing the hopeless feeling within the monks’ quest. The Vikings come across as brutal and merciless as one poor monk succumbs to a Norseman’s dark and twisted gratification. A scene at the start of the film, with the monks on the shore of the coast, is a harsh insight into the intentions of the Norsemen, also referred to as heathens, and sets up the rest of the film which is only brutal when necessary and never gratuitous, even if the aforementioned rape scene is difficult to sit through.
What really makes the film is the incredible cast, who bring a depth of personality to their characters, particularly Mark Lewis Jones (Aethelwulf) and Joshua Richards (Viking king Hadrada) as the two season warrior veterans. Marc Pickering, who you may recognise as Young Masbeth from Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, stars as the likable novice monk Hereward, who’s nervous demeanor, innocence and belief in God makes him quite a sympathetic character. However, he’s no weakling, with an iron will in what he believes is right. Over the course of the film, we see Hereward develop as an adult and human being as he experiences the harsh life outside of the monastery for the first time. Mark Lewis Jones is the battle-hardened warrior who makes it his duty to protect the young lad and the treasured book. Though he may be black and white in his way of thinking, Hereward teaches him to trust in others who may give off the wrong first impression.
With wonderful flowing camera shots, exciting fast-cut fight scenes, detailed costumes and an atmospheric score, VIKING: THE DARKEST DAY is a brutal yet honest period action drama that injects some real character into the genre. There’s no Hollywood flashiness here, just a tale inspired by true events and produced as realistic as possible. If you love Braveheart, like I do, then you’ll surely enjoy this!