Director: Kristian Levring.
Starring. Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Eric Cantona, Mikael Persbrandt, Douglas Henshall, Michael Raymond-James, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jonathan Pryce.USA/Denmark/South Africa. 1h 32m.
Westerns have long been a tough genre for me, I grew up watching them with my mother and grandfather and I really started to hate them. I suppose any entertainment that makes the adults lose interest in how cute you are will do that to a child’s psyche.. the only entertainment was playing with Gramps while he slept through some of the classics. Later on in life, when I got over the trauma, I rediscovered Spaghetti Westerns and I started to accept the genre back into my life, unless there’s a Mexican revolution a haunting Ennio Morricone soundtrack and less white people attempting to make believe that America has always been white, then the better things start to get. I’ve loved the reassurance of darker and more graphic horror westerns such as Seraphim Falls (2006), Brimstone (2016) and the almost instant cult classic Bone Tomahawk (2015), which have won me over. But without having a mythical foe or a revolution, there’s a striking grasp of The Salvation which has a more believable story of two immigrant brothers just trying to get ahead in the wild west and meeting ugly adversity.
There’s so much to like about this very Danish revenge adventure, and somehow it doesn’t feel like a western, it could easily be set in the present day or even a futuristic environment. The initial beauty is that the film doesn’t spend hours building up it’s characters. Mads plays Jon Jensen, an ex Danish soldier who’s embarked on the massive journey to set up a new life for his family, now achieving enough money for a home and transportation he’s eagerly awaiting the arrival of his wife and son. Along with his silent type brother Peter (Persbrandt), who is a believable brother to the chiseled cheeks Dane. Within moments of their reunion his family are soon victims of a brutal and disgusting crime. Leaving Madds and his brother with only one option and that’s to seek out a bloody revenge.
Yeah, I was a soldier once, and it taught me a lesson. Don’t get into a fight you know you’re gonna lose.-Peter
Madds isn’t a stranger for a bit of the ole ultraviolence and with his character was an ex soldier his ability to jump into badass mode was very fitting. And it takes him a bit of orienteering to get himself in the right place but he does eventually go fully postal and begins taking names.
Danish director, Kristian Levring has taken a lot of inspiration from the classic spaghetti Westerns, minus the twangy guitar soundtrack there’s a lot of sweaty faces and eyes darting around saloon rooms. But it’s the small details that make the film memorable, a fly on a dead man’s face, close ups of stirruped boots. It’s a master class of someone who’s been highly inspired. Along with the little details there’s also a massively engrossing story that keeps bringing new characters into the mix, who often spice up the social commentary, a mute hooker and countless bad politicians and law makers that are begging to be taken down, the only thing missing is a freed slave.. The biggest commentary of them all?
Overall The Salvation is fast paced, entertaining and somehow bleak and beautiful. Shot i South Africa with classic American landscapes CGI’d in. It feels as if Levring. Has schooled us all on how to pay perfect homage to the greats and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
Related – The Wind (2018), Brimstone (2016) , Bone Tomahawk (2015)
Lists – Modern Westerns, Revenge Westerns,
Spotlight – Mads Mikkelesn, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Mikael Persbrandt