Redbad (2018)

REDBAD Poster

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Dutch director Roel Reiné returns to the historical epic film with this tale of an exiled heir who returns to right the wrongs that have plagued his village.

In the village of Dorestad, Frisian King Aldigisl reigns in hopes of having his son Redbad take the throne in the near future. However, Redbad’s undying love for commoner Fenne has caused him to not want to take the throne. On the night Fenne and others are to be sacrificed, a legion of soldiers from the Franks invade the village and kill Aldigisl. The Franks have planned to unleash their newest weapon among those who oppose them in the form of Christianity. Redbad, due to his unwillingness to take the throne, is blamed for the invasion and is banished from Dorestad in the form of sacrificing himself to the seas.

However, Redbad is eventually found and taken in by a Viking village, which leads to him meeting, falling in love, and marrying Viking princess Frea. Meanwhile, the Franks, led by Charles Martel and his father, Pepin, have made an offer to bring peace amongst the people of Dorestad by forcing Redbad’s sister Sinde to marry Charles. After a few years in exile, Redbad returns to Dorestad with Frea and their son Poppo and begins a quest to free Dorestad and his sister from the reign of terror of the Franks. At what price will he pay for his mission of freedom?

You have to hand it Roel Reiné. While many will know him for directing many direct-to-DVD sequels over the past decade and a half, he surprised many when he unleashed his epic film Admiral in 2016, which revolved around the true story of Michiel de Ruyter, who led the Dutch naval forces in a war with England. This was truly one of his greatest films due to its story and quality. It was truly Reiné at his best and he intended to follow it up eventually with another historical epic. That film has finally been released and it is on the same level, if not exceeds that of Admiral.

Reuniting with Admiral screenwriter Alex van Galen, Reiné crafted a nearly three-hour epic about a war involving religion that looks to be described as Game of Thrones meets Vikings.  The film itself can be said to be done in chapters, the first involving the 1st Frank invasion of Dorestad. This would be followed the second being Redbad’s exile and both his arrival with the Danes to the fallout in Dorestad. The third “chapter” would involve Redbad’s return to Dorestad and his quest to save his village despite all obstacles with a fourth chapter that adds a twist to things that are a bit unexpectedbut nevertheless, necessary for the story to move along quite well, making the viewer more engaged in its long running time.

The idea of religion as a weapon seems a bit extreme, but perhaps throughout history, that’s what has happened. However, the film is not at all anti-Christian, but more about those who use the religion to invoke fear and suffering amongst those who oppose it. The film has more of a sense in terms of freedom of religion. This proves to be truth when Redbad’s wife Frea, a Christian herself, attempts to convince Bonifatius to resolve things peacefully as it is said “God said to love our enemies” with Redbad agreeing when he is confronted by the villagers about his wife.

The film brings out some wonderful performances with Reiné wisely using his primarily Dutch-cast switching between Dutch and English to bring distinction amongst the various factions. Gijs Naber churns out a powerful performance as the titular Redbad, who goes from exiled warrior to a legend who in the early 9th Century, attempted to stop the Franks not so much for revenge for his father, but to bring peace and independence to his village of Dorestad. The supporting cast, from veteran Hollywood actor Jonathan Banks as Frank king Pepijn to Dutch veterans Reneé Soutendijk, Derek de Lint, and Huub Stapel help drive the film. However, along with Naber, the most powerful performances go to Loes Haverkort as Frea, Redbad’s Danish wife who attempts at peace to Lisa Smit’s Fenne, who despite everything that has happened still has a heart of passion for Redbad despite his loyalty to Frea and she willingly accepts that.

Redbad is truly a beautifully shot historical epic that truly ranks among the best films in Roel Reiné’s filmography. The cast, the cinematography, and the epic battle scenes make this one for fans of shows like Game of Thrones and Vikings or those who just love a great historical epic.

WFG RATING: A

Epic Pictures presents a Farmhouse TV and Film BV Production. Director: Roel Reiné. Producer: Klaas de Jong. Writer: Alex van Galen. Cinematography: Roel Reiné. Editing: Radu Ion.

Cast: Gijs Naber, Loes Haverkort, Lisa Smit, Derek de Lint, Jonathan Banks, Søren Malling, Tibo Vandenborre, Egbert Jan Weeber, Teun Kuilboer, Jack Wouterse, Reneé Soutendijk, Huub Stapel, Peter Faber, Adam Ild Rohweder, Mark van Eeuwen.

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