Directed by: Mikkel Brænne Sandemose
Written by: John Kåre Raake
Starring: Bjørn Sundquist, Julian Podolski, Maria Annette Tanderø Berglyd, Nicolai Cleve Broch, Pål Sverre Hagen, Sofia Helin
Directed by Mikkel Brænne Sandemose
Norwegian/Swedish with English subtitles
Sigurd, an archaeologist obsessed with the Oseberg Viking ship, faces loosing his job when the investors pull funding of his research. When his friend Allan returns with an artifact which is engraved with similar runes to those of the Oseberg ship, Sigurd is convinced they hold the secrets of Ragnarok, the Norse legend of the end of days. Convinced the runes are a map which will lead them to treasures and thus, global celebrity, Sigurd, his daughter and son, and Allan travel to Finnmark to find the secret location with the help of Elisabeth and their driver cum local guide Leif. What they discover in the abandoned, sealed off, former Soviet controlled area unlocks the true secret of the runes, and it is not what either Sigurd or Allan were expecting.
RAGNAROK is a tense Nordic action thriller that plays out like a slick found footage movie for the first two thirds. Though the shooting style is your standard steady angles rather than the much-maligned handheld or shaky cam, the footage has an intimate feel about it which reminds me of the hit, Troll Hunter.
Following the group through the forest on their expedition to find treasure and artifacts from the Vikings is gripping to watch and when trouble unfolds, the action leaves the viewer on the edge of their seat and breathless with it. The sinister vibe bubbles at the surface, waiting to strike, which increases the tension and excitement for the viewer. Featuring the two children, Ragnhild and Brage, appeals to the kids as an action movie for their generation, though I felt that the movie was pretty scary at times for kids and even for me. However, it isn’t what is shown that makes RAGNAROK a nail-biting film, but rather what you don’t see. I’d have loved the filmmakers to have stuck to this mantra throughout but two thirds into the film, all is revealed in the form of CGI. Unfortunately, this ruins the illusion that had been created with a monster that is laughable rather than frightening with mediocre CGI to match. When the movie hits this section of the film, it all gets a bit predictable and weakens its very strong opening two thirds. Despite this issue, RAGNAROK is still a great film to watch and offers entertaining action adventure and suspense for movie fans.
One of the highlights of the movie is the breathtaking shots of the natural beauty. These scenic views really capture the essence of the characters’ journey as they attempt to discover what their ancestors, the Vikings, were hiding all those years ago. The mountains, the woodland and even the caves ooze atmosphere, and whilst most of it is rather beautiful, it is cleverly used against the characters as a natural danger too with an ancient evil simmering below the surface, waiting to consume them.
Whilst this is a movie to entertain the whole family, the slow build up might bore the young ones whilst older film fans will appreciate the slow burn which creates the tension. This is one of the great storytelling methods of the movie, creating the fear long before the viewer witnesses anything. When the scary scenes do raise their head, they may be a bit too much for younger children but suitable for ages 11+ which is the certificate which BBFC has aimed for with a 12 rating. It’s comparisons with Jurassic Park are exaggerated, though you can certainly feel that magic in the early parts of the movie.
More action and less CGI would have benefitted this film enormously, but what is presented in RAGNAROK is a decent enough effort to scare the kiddies and put you off searching for ancient artifacts for life.