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The 13th Warrior

review by David G.

 

Rated R

Running Time: 102 Minutes

Starring Antonio Banderas, Diane Venora, Omar Sharif, Vladimir Kulich

Studio: Disney

Screenplay by William Wisher & Warren Lewis from the book "Eaters of the Dead" by Michael Crichton

Directed by John McTiernan

 

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital English, 5.1 Dolby Digital French, English Captions, Chapter Search

In the 10th century, in old Baghdad, Ibn Fahdlan (Antonio Banderas) is sent as an ambassador in the north territories because he had a relationship with the wrong woman. His journey brings him to meet a Viking tribe lead by Bulliwyf (Vladimir Kulich). As he attempts to study these "barbarians", an emissary arrives in the village to claim help. The Rothgar's kingdom is threatened by some mysterious devils called Wendols which kill people by taking their head away. According to the prediction, only a group of 13 warriors including one stranger is able to defeat them. Fahdlan is forced to go with them and thus to be the witness of horror he couldn't imagine.

The 13th warrior is a movie that has been unfairly criticized by the public and by critics in part because of its chaotic production. In effect, the movie directed by McTiernan (Die Hard, Predator) is about two hours and thirty minutes long and takes time to tell the story of Fahdlan's banishment, his travel to the north lands and also a love story between him and a young north woman.

But Michael Crichton (the writer of the book and producer) didn't like McTiernan's cut and decided to re-edit it in his own way. The result is a hybrid work overall. In the first part of the movie we can see the eagerness to introduce the fight between the Vikings and the Wendols. But, McTiernan, maybe the best action director, is brilliant enough to offer us a real epic movie with wonderful characters and beautiful landscapes.

McTiernan is also known to be a real filmmaker and all his movies present strong directing. The 13th Warrior is one of the best examples (with Die Hard) of his talent, particularly in the amazing learning language sequence in which McTiernan employs the intelligence of the audience with appropriate camera movements and calibrated editing. It is with no doubt one of the major sequences in the career of McTiernan. Of course, the whole movie is as well directed and edited as this sequence (!).

The originality of this movie is that, Ibn Fahdlan is not the hero in a Hollywood typical way, he's just the narrator, the real hero being Bulliwyf. During the whole film, Fahdlan even tries to integrate the warriors tribe and go understand them but he's able to just at the very end. This might be a concern in regard of others "real American hero" stories in which the stranger usually arrives in a foreign place and resolve the troubles the inhabitants couldn't.

 

The movie is presented in a perfect widescreen anamorphic 2:35:1 format with a clear picture. Artifacts and noises are rare. The transfer is correct: nothing more or nothing less. That is a little disappointing for such an ambitious movie.

Two soundtracks are included: English Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 5.1. They are about the same, the surround speakers and the sub are efficient and clear, yet not so powerful. Maybe McTiernan wanted it that way but personally, I would prefer to be trapped in the battles with the swords hitting flesh all around.

Nothing but the theatrical trailer and some recommendations.

This a DVD that every McTiernan fan must purchase. Despite the poor editing of the first part, the movie brings us in a real epic adventure that is wonderfully filmed. Maybe one day there will be a special edition with the original cut and a commentary.

(4/5, NOT included in final score)

(4/5)

(4/5)

(.5/5)

(3/5, NOT an average)

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