The Last King – A Nordic Adventure Film

Posted: November 18, 2016 in film
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The Last King (2016, available now on Netflix Instant Watch) depicts historical events in Norway in 1206—a Birkebeiner infant king must be transported to safety to avoid his being killed by the Bagler opposition (the Birkebeiners were so-named as they were originally so poor they wore birch bark shoes). The Last King serves up a good adventure. The plot is straight-forward and fairly predictable, but well-paced without descending into melodrama. It manages to give a brief flavor of Nordic life in the 13th Century—castles, hamlets, and an abundance of action scenes with the heroes skiing through the snow-draped Norwegian landscape.

For those seeking a Game of Thrones fix, The Last King does have its share of Machiavellian manoeuvers provided by treacherous royalty and brutal assassins, but while the violence is realistic, it’s never gory or gratuitous.

A warrior (Tornstein, played by Kristofer Hivju) is assigned the task of taking the young king to safety. I enjoyed seeing Mr. Hivju play a more nuanced part than his role as the Wildling leader, Tormund Giantsbane, from Game of Thrones. While still in a medieval setting, in The Last King, Tornstein is a brother-in-arms and a friend. Also giving a good performance is Jakob Oftebro, playing Skjervald, a warrior-turned-farmer seeking to redeem himself and obtain revenge in the process.

After watching the film and doing a little research, I was surprised to find Norwegians celebrate this heroic journey every year with races by foot, bicycle, and of course, cross-country ski. Sister cross-country ski races (Birkebeinerrennet) are also held in the United states, Canada, and Australia. So the adventure continues, and if I ever find myself back up in snow country, I may join a race and be a Birkebeiner for a day!

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