Tv & Film
Is Netflix's The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die worth a watch?
Let’s get this straight from the start – if you have never seen an episode of Netflix’s historical epic series The Last Kingdom, you may find yourself a tad confused watching this feature-length finale that wraps up the Danish/Saxon story told over five seasons and is filled with grunting, bearded men wielding swords whose names all seem to begin with ‘Ae’.
However, even if you can’t quite follow who has just betrayed whom, who’s related to whom and why they want them dead, this is nonetheless a beautifully filmed action adventure with a watchable lead in Alexander Dreymon, whose Uhtred is front and centre enough that you don’t have to worry too much about some of the more complex machinations going on around him.
Fans of the series, of course, will know exactly what is going on and will be itching to find out how the gripping series is wrapped up in this final movie, and whether it comes to a satisfying end (spoiler-free answer: it does).
Picking up some time after the end of season five, Seven Kings Must Die begins with Northumbrian lord Uhtred’s relatively peaceful existence disrupted once more, first with the news that King Edward has died, calling into question who will now rule his lands, and second with seer Ingrith’s ominous pronouncement that “Seven kings must die, and the woman you love.”
There are numerous betrayals, stabbings (including a nice sword to the back of the skull) and 10th-century treacheries to follow as one of Edward’s sons, Aethelstan (Harry Gilby), attempts to forge a united England while numerous kings – could there be seven of them, perchance? – from Scotland, Shetland, Orkney and the like form an alliance with the dastardly Danish warrior Anlaf (Pekka Strang) in opposition to the King’s plans.
It’s all leading up to a big battle – the Battle of Brunanburh in AD 937 for the historians among us – and director Ed Bazalgette goes all out for the spectacular set piece, featuring gushing injuries, fierce sword battles, dramatic charges and tautly co-ordinated fight scenes all happening on the screen at once. It's pretty stunning.
While there's lots of action and compelling storylines to keep us interested in the earlier part of the movie – how the Vikings and Saxons had time for fighting when they are spending so much time plotting and being generally devious is anyone’s guess – it is in this big battle that both the cast and the effects and stunt teams really shine.
Dreymon, Gilby and most notably Laurie Davidson, as Aethelstan’s advisor Ingilmundr, are all convincing and complicated, never falling into the stereotypes of hero or villain, and their confrontations on the battlefield are as gripping as they are gruesome.
If you loved The Last Kingdom as a series, you’ll be very pleased with this final slice of medieval warrior life, and if this is your first introduction to the story (as based on Bernard Cornwell’s books), you’ll no doubt be tempted to start watching Uhtred’s adventures from the very beginning of season one as soon as the movie’s end credits have rolled.