UK Release Date: 17th April 2015
Runtime: 92 minutes
Director: Kristian Levring
Writer: Kristian Levring, Anders Thomas Jensen
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eva Green, Eric Cantona, Mikael Persbrandt, Jonathan Pryce
Synopsis: A mild-mannered man draws the ire of some vicious outlaws when he murders their ringleader’s brother.
The western can best be described as something of a dormant genre. Swathes of time regularly pass without a new frontier fable, but it’s still a beloved part of cinema for the likes of Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) and, somewhat less seriously, Seth MacFarlane (A Million Ways to Die in the West).
Reunited with his wife and son after time apart, Danish settler Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) finds himself sharing a carriage with two drunken and aggressive local men. When they throw him from the cart and murder his family, Jon tracks them down and takes brutal revenge. This places him in the firing line of one of the men’s brother – Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) – who is a notorious local outlaw, alongside his right-hand man The Corsican (Eric Cantona).
| "I learned something from war. Never start a fight you can’t win."
From the start, The Salvation distinguishes itself as something visually impressive. Perhaps bizarrely, given director Levring’s association with the minimalist Dogme 95 movement, every frame is full of artificial, striking, colour and blazing light. This visual palette is the film’s most impressive quality, as just about everything else adheres to formula.
Levring is obviously an enormous fan of the western genre and, as such, The Salvation hits all of the story beats you’d expect. There’s betrayal, bullets and blood to spare with very little emotional context to tie it all together. The majority of the story’s emotional heft comes from Eva Green – who, despite playing a mute character, manages to bring more resonance to her part than just about anyone else.
However, it is worth praising Mads Mikkelsen, who feels incredibly at home as a western hero. His tight-lipped performance fits Levring and co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen’s minimalist script perfectly. Mikkelsen has a great ability to convey steely defiance near wordlessly, which perfectly suits this narrative. Unfortunately, when the plot machinations click into gear in the third act, his role is reduced to nothing more than generic gunman, which really undercuts any impact of these scenes.
| "I underestimated you, soldier."
The Salvation simply adheres too closely to the tried and tested revenge formula to be anything more than a brief, aesthetically interesting distraction. It doesn’t have an original bone in its body, but as a showcase for Mikkelsen as a leading man, it’s got merit to it.
Pop or Poop?
Kristian Levring – shedding the restrictive stripped-down visuals of the Dogme 95 movement – has produced an interesting western with The Salvation, boasting a handful of solid performances.
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough originality on the show and the final act dissolves into rather pointless mayhem and violence.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.