The 13th Warrior (1999)

“The 13th Warrior” is one those big Hollywood movies that came and went almost unnoticed back in 1999 after sitting on the shelf for years, and it’s not hard to see why: Based on Michael Crighton’s “Eaters of the Dead,” it’s a fact-based medieval epic following a group of Vikings on a quest to protect their community from supernatural forces that are invading from a local mountain who discover that the threat is all but supernatural. It’s a hard movie to promote, really, because there aren’t exactly any likable characters around and the usually-smoldering Antonio Banderas is covered in grime and sweat throughout the whole movie (in a bad way), while the quest itself has more in common with, say, “The Ten Commandments” than the quasi-mysticism of soul sibling “Beowulf,” so the audience needs to re-assess its expectations along with the characters. But it’s undeniably a feast for the sentences: Often recalling the excesses of Paul Verhoeven’s “Flesh + Blood,” the sets are truly breathtaking and the action sequences are so well-directed that you eventually stop trying to figure out exactly what you’re watching and just abandon yourself to its own unique, distinguished appeal.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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