Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan (Antonio Banderas) is a renowned poet in Baghdad, until he falls in love with the wife of a noble. Exiled from his homeland, he travels north as an ambassador, eventually falling in with a group of Norsemen. These Norsemen are intent on a hero’s quest to save a kingdom from the threat of savage beasts known as Wendols. In order to succeed, it is prophesied that they require an extra companion, someone not of the north, effectively conscripting Ahmed into their service as their thirteenth warrior.
The always entertaining Antonio Banderas is a dependable lead, and he does an adequate job with such an average character. He at least gives credence to Ahmed’s path from noble poet to resourceful warrior. The rest of the cast seem to struggle with what little they are given to work with. Mostly stereotypical Nordic types, they rely too heavily on a forced sense of camaraderie with one another.
That’s not to say that The 13th Warrior is a bad film. In fact, it’s reasonably well-made. It certainly looks the part, and there’s an authenticity to the setting and the visuals. Nothing seems out of place. The acting is at best convincing, and at worst watchable. The action scenes, of which there are plenty, are definite highlights. Director John McTiernan yet again proves to be an assured hand when it comes to orchestrating exciting action sequences.
Unfortunately, there’s precious little for us to take away from The 13th Warrior. With no stand-out performances and no characters to connect with, it serves as little more than a way of scratching a Scandinavian itch. Enjoyable while it lasts, but ultimately forgettable.
So come for the Vikings, stay for the action, but don’t expect it to linger long in the memory once the dust has settled.