The 13th Warrior (1999)
The 13th Warrior was released in 1999 and stars Antonio Banderas, Vladimir Kulich and Dennis Storhoi, with a nice cameo from Omar Sharif. This is the film adaptation of Michael Crichtons’ book The Eaters of the dead, where Michael Crichton adapted the old Beowulf story and included elements of historical records of the time of the Vikings.
Here is a brief non spoiler synopsis; Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan (Antonio Banderas) is a poet from Medieval Baghdad. After his wandering eye fell on the wrong married woman, he is granted the “honour” to be emissary in the barbarian lands to the west. In his travels he comes across a camp of Norsemen. While staying with him their king Buliwyf (Vladimir Kulich) is asked for help to stop an ancient evil. Buliwyf (pronounced Bull-Vai) asks for a wise-woman to throw the bones to see what whether he should help or not. She says they will succeed if thirteen warriors go to fight this evil, but the 13th warrior can be no Norseman. Poor old Ahmed is of course the 13th warrior.
Ahmed the poet then reluctantly travels north through Europe with the Norsemen to a village that is beset by said evil. Then HYJINX ENSUE.
As a student of history, especially Scandinavian history here is a wee bit of trivia. The scene where Antonio Bandera’s character watches the funeral of a Viking chief is directly taken from the account of an Arabic trader who witnessed a Viking ship funeral. As an aspiring writer I find Mr Crichton's use of history in his fiction interesting.
I had mixed feelings about this movie when I first saw this back in 1999. As a student of history I can get a bit nigglely about glaring clashes of inaccuracy, I find it jarring. But The 13th warrior really is a fun movie that you can watch, and re-watch. The movie is story is entertaining and the performances excellent. I really enjoy the portrayal of the Norsemen. There are sword fights, adventure, heroic last stands and battles! What more can a young man want. It’s grand, and as I said it has that rare virtue of being re-watchable.
One issue I have with the movie was that it could have been about ten to fifteen minutes longer. You have thirteen warriors all of whom are different and seem interesting, but there is little or no character development on half of them. A little time introducing the audience to these characters would help the audience identify and sympathise with them more. Even so the men portrayed in this film are certainly more heroic and epic than your average Hollywood action picture. Buliwyf would pick his teeth with any character played by Steven Segal or Nicholas Cage.
I rate this 8 monkeys with an obvious bias towards my Nordic ancestors! Watch it while eating meat and drinking a beer.