For a century war has raged through the land between its inhabitants and the Danish invaders. But now a peace has settled with the country nearly united – only Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), ruling over Northumbria, is yet to pledge his land to the throne. But when King Edward dies the peace is threatened as his two potential heirs, Aethelstan (Harry Gilby) and Aelfweard (Ewan Horrocks), battle to claim the crown. When Uhtred hears that Aethelstan – once his ward and protégé́ ‐ is to fight, he rides to help him secure victory, but the young prince has fallen under a dark influence of Ingilmundr (Laurie Davidson) and is not the same boy Uhtred once knew. And when Athelstan’s actions threaten the life Uhtred has known, Uhtred must decide where his loyalties lie – with the king, or with his homeland.
Meanwhile, a new threat has reached these shores – the Danish Warrior‐King Anlaf (Pekka Strang) has arrived, hoping to wreak chaos and use the discord for his own ends. As Athelstan’s actions make enemies across the British Isles, Anlaf brings the king’s enemies together in a great alliance that threatens the vision of uniting England. And when the alliance comes seeking Uhtred’s help in their plans, Uhtred faces a choice between those he cares for most, and the dream of a United Kingdom.
Adapting a series and condensing it into a stand-alone movie is no easy feat. Somehow, the writers of The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die have managed to make a successful feature length follow up to the series. Seven Kings Must Die has the same overall feeling that the series did, but without being a complete carbon copy. With all the cast returning, the use of opening credits, it would have been very easy for Seven Kings Must Die to fall into the trap of simply being an extended episode. One technique used was changing the way Seven Kings Must Die was shot. By using a wider lens, it naturally gives this movie a cinematic feel.
As a casual viewer of the series, it was interesting to see where all our favourite characters had ended up after the last season, and of course, what condition was England in given there were hints to Aethelstan’s expected rise to power. Aethelstan is no longer the carefree boy that Uhtred had known, and now with his father’s death being led astray by Ingilmundr. Fans will be pleased to hear that Finan (Mark Rowley) and Sihtric (Arnas Fedaravicius) return and offer brilliant and sometimes a bit of levity to the movie, in a similar way they did in the series.
In Seven Kings Must Die, loyalty, leadership and virtue are the main themes of the movie. As the show focuses on the Kings Orkney (Zsolt Páll), Man (Laurent Winkler), Shetland (Attila Árpa), Owain of Strathclyde (John Buick) and Hywel of Wealas (Steffan Rhodri) all coming together in the face of Athelstan’s threats of invasion, of taking what is theirs for the dream of a United England. Each has their own leadership styles and it really brings into focus that leadership shouldn’t be a one-person job. Seven Kings Must Die is also about love and being torn between what a leader believes is right for the people in comparison to their own needs, which is shown through Athelstan’s desire to see himself free of what believes is sin, at the cost of becoming a tyrant king.
The movie introduces a character in Ingilmundr. Ingilmundr is a perfect villain and throughout the movie, Ingilmundr’s true motives come to light as Laurie Davidson’s performance of this antagonist is one of the standout performances. Davidson perfectly executes Ingilmundr’s duplicitous side, while allowing his mask to slip on occasion. He ensures that Ingilmundr will not be forgotten, especially given the character’s involvement in a lot of key moments. Given his integral role in Athelstan’s rise of power, to his own ambitions, Ingilmundr must be awarded the most valuable character (MVC), but Uhtred deserves a special mention given how he has helped shape a United England.
Any project of The Last Kingdom would not be complete without a battle, and Seven Kings Must Die supplies one of the best battle scenes seen. Based on the actual battle of The Battle of Brunanburh was fought in 937 between Athelstan and Olaf Guthfirthson (Anlaf in the series) was perfectly executed. It’s a long sequence that shows the different aspects of a battle. Historically, this battle was an epic tale as it could have gone either way, it was a battle that decided if England would be created or broken and Seven Kings Must Die truly managed to accurately portray the gravity of that battle and how Athelstan managed to claw back an unlikely victory. The battle was gritty, bloody, and more realistic than most seen in any media. From the preparation of the shield wall to the different tactics and perspectives shown throughout the scene, it will have you on the edge of your seat as you watch history unfold.
Overall, Seven Kings Must Die was a fantastic farewell to a much-loved series. Every character, every scene was not wasted within this movie and while not all characters get a successful conclusion, it still provided fans with a fitting end. Uhtred has lived a full life, and while his story began facing death and making rash decisions, the movie and series perfectly weaves a fictional character into some key parts of Saxon history.