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'The 13th Warrior'

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 27, 1999

  Movie Critic

'The 13th Warrior'
Antonio Banderas (right) is "The 13th Warrior." (Touchstone)

John McTiernan
Antonio Banderas;
Diane Venora;
Omar Sharif
Running Time:
1 hour, 43 minutes
Contains ancient violence – head-chopping and all that
Michael Crichton's "Eaters of the Dead," arguably his best read of all, drew from the true account of Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan, a sophisticated emissary from Baghdad in the 10th century who joined a group of Norse warriors and wrote about his experiences. Antonio Banderas is very persuasive as Ibn Fahdlan, who joins a Viking detail bent on defeating a tribe of marauding bear-men, who seem to be part beast.

When a soothsayer determines that 13 men must defeat the enemy, including a 13th warrior from another land, Ibn Fahdlan takes up the sword. Or tries to. "I cannot lift this," he says, trying to wield a heavy sword. "Grow stronger," replies a Viking. Banderas's Spanish lilt effectively suggests the foreigner status he gets among the warriors as he tries to understand their ways and impress them as a soldier. And his subtle, fish-out-of-water performance gives the movie much of its spark.

Unfortunately, the story's too lightweight and streamlined to be memorable. "The 13th Warrior" (I guess "Eaters of the Dead" wasn't upbeat enough) seems like a made-for-TV warrior movie without enough money to get really epic.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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