In 911 A.D., an Arab poet, Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan (Antonio Banderas), is sent abroad as an ambassador. He meets some Vikings under the command of Buliwyf (Vladimir Kulich), a towering Viking chieftan. This warrior is summoned by his besieged relatives to the North. A seeress divines that 13 men must go and the last is not to be a Norseman. Ahmed suddenly finds himself traveling to a far and alien world, feeling ill equipped for what lies ahead.

This unusual action drama is directed by John McTiernan (The Thomas Crown Affair) and based loosely on Michael Crichton's 1976 novel Eaters of the Dead. The Muslim Ahmed is plopped right in the midst of Buliwyf's valiant effort to save King Hrothgar's settlement from the Wendol, a fierce tribe of savages who worship a goddess and live in caves. There are plenty of robust battle scenes during which the outsider earns the respect of the Viking warriors. The screenplay effectively communicates the cross-cultural tensions between the Arabs, the Vikings, and the pagan Wendols.