2016, Newgrange Pictures/Nordisk Film Production/Paradox Film 3/Proton Cinema

Nils Gaup
Stein B. Kvae
Finn Gjerdrum
Ravn Lanesskog
Peter Mokrosinski
Christoffer Heie
Tomas Täng

Jakob Oftebro (Skjervald)
Kristofer Hivju (Torstein)
Torkel D. Soldal (Egil)
Ane Ulimoen Øverli (Inga)
Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Orm)
Pål Sverre Hagen (Gisle)
Åsmund Brede Eike (Stale)
Søren Pilmark (Bishop)
Thorbjørn Harr (Inge)
Lia Boysen (Queen Margrete)
Jonathan Oskar Dahlgren (Baby Håkon)
Benjamin Helsted (King Håkon)

The story of the future King Håkon Håkonsson IV comes to life as we see the toddler king under the protection of two loyal members of the Birkebeiner in Nils Gaup’s latest adventure.

In the year 1204, the civil war in Norway is at an all-time high. A plot is revealed by royal constituent Gisle, who conspired with King Håkon Sverresson’s stepmother, Queen Margarete, to ensure she keeps the throne. When Håkon is murdered by poisoning, Margarete is forced to flee to her native Sweden while the King’s concubine, Inga, is forced to stay in Norway. That is, until it is revealed that Håkon had bore a son with his namesake from Inga, who was born in the rival Bagler territory.

Escaping with the baby, Inga enlists the help of two members of the King’s most loyal soldiers, the Birkenbeiner, to protect the young baby Håkon. In the two years since birth, Skjervald and Torstein successfully brave the winters as they take the child and mother to safety. However, the rival Baglers as well as members of the kingdom led by Gisle, intend to find the child and kill him. When Skjervald’s beloved wife and son is killed as a result of refusing to disclose Baby Håkon’s location, Skjervald and Torstein now find themselves determined to do what it takes to make sure the baby grows up to take his rightful place on the throne while Inge, Gisle’s half-brother, takes the throne in hopes to keep the peace.

Norwegian director Nils Gaup is known for epic films such as Pathfinder and the Disney adventure Shipwrecked, an underrated family epic of sorts. For his latest film, Gaup delves into the history of his native Norway. The film depicts the true story of the young infant who would become Norway’s King Håkon IV (1204-1263) and two of the King’s most loyal soldiers, the Birkenbeiner, who protected him at all costs so he can rightfully take the throne.

The film’s two leads are played by Jakob Oftebro and Fate of the Furious co-star Kristofer Hivju, and they are great together. The duo play the loyal Skjervald and Torstein, who go to great lengths to protect the young baby Håkon from both the rival Baglers, who pose a threat to the kingdom and surprisingly, from internal conflicts within the kingdom. What becomes interesting is that for Skjervald, it is more than a mission to protect the future King, but it becomes a personal mission of vengeance for the death of his family at the hands of their rivals.

The battle scenes for this film are beyond great for this historical epic. There are loads of axes swinging, arrows flying, and swords blazing in the wintery landscapes of Norway. There is even a load of ski chases that drive the film including a three-minute chase sequence that proves to be great when it comes to this brand of epic. The battles indicate that both Skjervald and Torstein will do what it takes, even if they have to pay the ultimate sacrifice, to make sure they complete their mission to ensure the safety of the king. Brilliantly, Gaup complements these epic battles with the drama and strife that depicts the civil war in Norway as well as the treachery within the kingdom itself.

Nils Gaup continues to cement his reputation as one of cinema’s great “epic genre” directors with The Last King. Excellent performances by the two leads combined with both epic drama and battles make this one to definitely check out.