Some movies just hit all the right notes and leave you utterly satisfied.

The first scene sets the tone, and does it well. We’re in medieval times, in a pub. Before long, weapons are drawn and blood is shed. The fighting is expertly choreographed. The camera rarely cuts and follows the action clearly. One group is clad in red, the rest aren’t. The former are really nasty and merciless. We are introduced through their actions to a few of the main players of the story, and they are brutal.

I’m already noticing how authentic the settings are, and how much care and thought has gone to the costume and character design.  And the fighting.
Our main protagonist, Lutobor, is the Prince’s right-hand man and extremely loyal. He’s so loyal that when the killers from the opening scene show up at his home to kidnap his wife and week-old son after slaughtering all who stood in their way, giving him the choice to kill the prince in exchange for their lives, he tells the prince about it.

The prince fakes his death at the hands of Lutobor, who now has seven days to track down the killers and get his wife and son back. In order to really sell the lie though, Lutobor will also be hunted by his own people for the murder he didn’t commit.

In this land, every tribe is defined by the god(s) they worship. The Prince’s growing kingdom is Christian. The tribe responsible for his assassination attempt, the kidnapping and so many other collateral killings are the last of the Scythians and worship Ares. There are others. Ultimately, though, there is always the rule of greed and lust for power, which is common to all.

The plot is fairly straightforward and not wholly original but it still manages to surprise all the way to the end. There are uneasy alliances, betrayals, revelations, and all brought to vivid life by fantastic scenery, assured direction, and pitch-perfect performances. A lot of the fighting sequences are done hand-held, which I thought worked perfectly.

The supernatural elements aren’t evident throughout but there are subtle manifestations. The Scythians have a reddish tint to their eyes, in keeping with the color scheme of their clothes. There is an early scene at the beginning of the quest that takes place in a cave and has an unexplainable occurrence. And during one great sequence (which reminded me of the thunderdome sequence in the third Mad Max film), it’s hinted at the unnatural abilities brought on by a possible ‘’magic potion’’. Despite these though, things remain gritty, grounded and fairly believable. I like the details such as Lutobor visibly shaking in the cold rain following the vicious attack on his homestead.

Lutobor is a worthy hero to follow. Out of every character in the film he is arguably the most virtuous and displays an obvious moral streak, though he goes through quite the life-changing trials and lessons. He begins the film loyal almost to a fault, and that loyalty, as well as his own beliefs in himself, are seriously tested. This is great, classical hero stuff.

There’s an underlying subtext of the disappearance of different cultures and beliefs brought on by the spreading of Christianity which culminates in the unexpected conclusion. There’s a bit more to this than just a simple rescue adventure yarn.

I suppose if there’s one small aspect that I could say didn’t fully work for me is when there’s a point in which an obvious attempt is made to elicit sympathy for the Scythians. Sure, as previously mentioned theirs is a dying culture, but it doesn’t erase the fact that it’s also a vicious, bloodthirsty and corruptible one. Though, as we are shown, so are the Christians in this story. This slight manipulative aspect isn’t enough to deter from the overall thrill that is The Scythian, though.

In the post-Game of Thrones landscape of graphic heroic-fantasy entertainment, the bar has been arguably set high. For my money, The Scythian stands tall. It’s one of those experiences that remind us what makes movies so great to watch.