Ibn Fadlan Meets Beowulf
Crighton's "hook" into "The 13th Warrior" and the novel on which it is based is stone brilliant: he uses the historical figure of Ahmad ibn Fadlan (Banderas), Persian traveler and diplomat as his point-of-view character, thus giving the tale a strong verisimilitude. Many of Ibn Fadlan's observations about the Vikings -- such their sanitary habits, the ship burial of the chieftain, and others -- form the basis for some of the most memorable scenes in the film. Banderas begins as a reluctant member of the expedition to cleanse Heorot from man-eating monsters, but eventually finds his own way to become a warrior without abandoning his culture; hence, his character arc is highly satisfying. The prelude to the climactic battle, the battle itself, and the aftermath may well be the best part of the movie. I rate this film four boxes of popcorn and two horns of mead.