Directed by: Edward Bazalgette
Distributed by: Netflix
Written by Alexander Reams
The joyous depravity bound to the nature of being a Dane or a Saxon through the year 924 is inherently cinematic. To be in the shoes of people who by our standards, are savages and to watch their conquests with the animalistic nature it entails is glorious to watch. Last year offered “The Northman,” a view of Viking culture through the lens of accuracy and details above all else, which allowed for the film to feel as if Vikings made it. This year’s entry is “The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die,” focused on the wars in England for control of the crown. The series prior had run for seven years, two networks, and five seasons of acclaimed performances, story, action, and production value. It was held in high regard by many (this writer included), and with the new trend of streamer films, it made thematic sense for a show that was already cinematic to be given the feature film treatment.
Four years after Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon) completed his quest to reclaim his birthright, the title of “Lord of Bebbanburg,” he is brought back into the fold after the death of King Edward throws the country of England into chaos. With time not on his side, Uhtred, Finan (Mark Crowley), and Sihtric (Arnas Fedaravicius) ride to seek out the plan of Aelfweard (Ewan Horrocks), the second son of King Edward, and challenger for the throne against his firstborn, Aethelstan (Harry Gilby). Writer Martha Hillier compacts this into a short time frame and never lets it feel rushed. The pace throughout “Seven Kings Must Die” (which should have been the title for the film but hey, marketing!) is not only competent, it’s impressive. The action that falls out from these petty squabbles is laid out in tremendous fashion, and cut together in a way that lets the violence breathe and impact every shot, longer takes go through town squares that follow Uhtred as he dishes out his signature style of violence (fast, brutal, and always marching onward).
“Seven Kings Must Die” is one of the few worthy follow-ups to an acclaimed television show, it encapsulates the spirit of what made the show, while employing the usefulness of an expanded budget and production crew to enhance the battles, sets, and through that the performances excel even more, Dreymon takes full advantage of this medium and brings more out of Uhtred in his quieter scenes, his lighthearted side provides more emotional development for Uhtred the man, instead of Uhtred Lord of Bebbanburg. The issue with “Seven Kings Must Die” is the unnecessary introduction to a subvillain that did not have a presence in the show and only takes away from the tension in the royal court. Despite this, the film still soars with its focus on political manipulation and gruesome violence to entice new views, catharsis for longtime fans of the show is what this does best, and by the end Valhalla feels only a few steps away.
“The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die” Trailer