It’s feast or famine when Arab ambassador Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan (Antonio Banderas) is sent to make peaceful contact with the barbaric Vikings in A.D. 922. Soon, he finds himself in the midst of a battle between the Norsemen and their supernatural, flesh-eating enemies. Omar Sharif, Vladimir Kulich and Diane Venora also star in this epic fantasy based on the Viking folklore of Michael Crichton’s novel Eaters of the Dead.
A master craftsman notable for his almost Hitchcockian ability to create suspense and keep action moving at an exhilarating pace, director John McTiernan began his involved with theatrical arts early in life. His father was an opera singer, and McTiernan made his theatrical debut at age seven playing bit roles in his father’s shows. After high school he became involved with summer stock, where he directed, acted, and designed until attended Julliard and New York University, where he studied film. He then became designer and technical director at the Manhattan School of Music.
McTiernan went on to make over 200 television commercials before making his feature film debut by directing the fantasy horror movie Nomads (1985). He followed that up with Predator (1987), a sci-fi action film featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger that spawned a franchise.
In 1988, McTiernan helmed his best-known film, the blockbuster Die Hard. Starring Bruce Willis, the film was a hit with both audiences… read more
McTiernan's sister film to Predator (it even has a variation on "If it bleeds, we can kill it."), in which he explores all of his central themes, and reconnects with his primal 1987 masterpiece. A direct confrontation with the primitive, recalling not only the jungles of Predator but the alleys of Nomads. Perhaps his most immersive cinematography. Hurt by studio meddling, but a truly great film regardless.
I was hoping you'd post something on this when I saw your five star rating. I can't say I like the film as much as that, but I've always enjoyed it and think there are some extraordinary things in it. Hopefully we'll one day be able to see the full director's cut (brilliantly titled 'Eaters of the Dead') and see what McTiernan really intended before Crichton took over.
Great writeup, Jack. This is a fascinating movie with flaws that make it all the more curious. I am especially taken by the utopian revisionism of McTiernan's depiction of the interactions of seemingly disparate cultures in the Middle Ages. As this story predates the Crusades by about 150 years McTiernan's vision of racial and cultural harmony makes this an elegiac meditation on just how different history could have been. However, it is also a reminder that it is never too late to achieve peace. A surprisingly (and perhaps jarringly) hopeful film.