THE SALVATION (Denmark | UK | South Africa | Sweden | Belgium/15A/92mins)

Directed by Kristian Levring. Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Eric Cantona, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kristian Levring.

THE PLOT: In 1870s America, Danish settler Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) welcomes his wife Marie (Nanna Øland Fabricius) and son to the township where he has made them a home. On the way to their house, however, the family is set upon by violent and ruthless men who rape Marie and murder both her and her son. Overcome with grief, Jon takes his revenge, but soon realises he has incurred the wrath of vicious gang leader Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). When the townsfolk refuse to aid Jon, he is forced to take on the outlaws on his own.

THE VERDICT: THE SALVATION is a rather simple Western that doesn’t really add anything new to the genre, but it is also beautifully shot, and gleefully violent. Mads Mikkelsen is on wonderful form as Jon, a man of few words but strong loyalties. Mikkelsen’s cold stare is a joy to behold, and he is the lynchpin that holds the violent but entertaining film together.

Elsewhere, Eva Green cultivates a cold stare of her own as a woman whose tongue was cut out by Indians. Although she has no dialogue in the film, Green makes Madelaine a strong and powerful woman, whose emotion is conveyed through her gaze alone. Jonathan Pryce rounds out the former Bond baddies as the town’s mayor, Keane and is on strong form as the cowardly and weak man. The rest of the cast is made up of Eric Cantona, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Mikael Persbrandt in a role that was originally intended for Mikkelsen’s brother Lars.

Anders Thomas Jensen and Kristian Levring’s screenplay is not one that is filled with surprises; in fact, The Salvation feels rather familiar in its tone and story. There are nice touches here and there, but the film’s story is not what makes it strong.
As director, Kristian Levring allows tensions to ebb and flow throughout the film, bringing things to a head rather quickly, then allowing escape and recapture to punctuate the rest of the film. Levring has coaxed strong and powerful performances from his cast, and the final set piece, although supremely violent and rather silly, is incredibly well shot and is gleefully daft.

In all, THE SALVATION could be just another Western, but it is elevated by strong performances from Green and Mikkelsen. The film is beautifully shot, and the final set piece is a thing of violent joy, and if there is one lesson to be taken from the film, it’s never be smug while smoking a cigar. You’ll see what I mean.


Review by Brogen Hayes

The Salvation
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.0Beautifully shot
  • filmbuff2011

    Here’s something a bit different: a traditional American western but with a Danish twist. Fleeing a destructive war between Denmark and neighbouring Germany, Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) settles in reconstruction-era America. Once a soldier, now a peaceful man finding a new life in the new world, Jon has found a place that he can call home. His wife and son join him in Arizona, but a twist of fate means that he loses both of them in one night. He kills the men responsible, but this only stirs up the wrath of Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), brother of one the men that Jon killed and Madelaine (Eva Green), widow of that man. It’s only a matter of time before Delarue tracks Jon down, but first he places the almost-lawless town in a bind. If Jon isn’t found immediately, he’ll shoot two villagers. The local sheriff is ineffective and the Mayor (Jonathan Pryce) is corrupt. The only person that Jon can trust is his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrant). Jon turns to violent ways once again… Not that you would know it, but The Salvation was filmed in South Africa. It makes a convincing stand-in for Monument Valley, the setting of so many classic John Ford westerns. This is a revenge western that plays to traditional expectations – everyone is out for themselves, women are either hunted or used by men, the local law enforcement is about as useful as a boat in the desert and the bad guy isn’t so bad (the Mayor claims that Delarue was a good man once). Director Kristian Levring clearly wanted to pack in as many trademarks of the western as he could, though a bar brawl and some saloon girls didn’t make the cut. It’s an entertaining film for sure, with Mikkelsen’s grim determination keeping things interesting throughout. The actors also had fun making the film – where else would you see former footballer turned actor Eric Cantona play a cowboy? The one thing that the film lacks though is a heart. Whereas Unforgiven always rooted itself in a redemption story, The Salvation never really convinces in that area. Whose salvation are we talking about? Jon’s or the town’s? Westerns are fairly rare these days, but The Salvation should do nicely until something better comes along. ***