The Salvation, 2014, Denmark/UK/South Africa
In the 1870s, Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) brings his wife and child over to America from Denmark. Upon their arrival, they are murdered in cold blood by associates of Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a local gang leader. Jon kills the murderers, which enrages Delarue, who embarks on a manhunt in order to find the person responsible. Jon, receiving no support from his fellow townsman, decides to pursue Delarue himself.
The Western genre is sadly out of vogue nowadays, so you don’t really see too many of them. I was intrigued by the idea of a Danish western film, and I adore Mikkelsen, so of course I had to watch this film. For anyone averse to subtitles: this film is mostly in English, save for the opening few scenes.
Mikkelsen is excellent as Jon, a man who has experienced heartbreak at the hands of cruel men, and is hellbent on justice. Eva Green is Delarue’s mute sister-in-law, and her performance is intriguing. I was disappointed that her and Mikkelsen did not share many scenes together, however. Morgan was a formidable villain, much in the vein of other classic Western foes.
The Salvation is a slow burn of a film. It moves slowly, until the final climax, which is breathtaking. It’s all the more exciting because of the slow build-up towards it. Like so many westerns before it, The Salvation really takes advantage of its landscape. It’s shot beautifully. There’s grit and dirt everywhere, offering a sense that this area is a rough, unforgiving part of the world. It’s as ugly and rough as Morgan’s face.
Kudos to director Kristian Levring for delivering a gripping Western featuring characters that felt like homages to classic western characters, yet retained their own individuality. And, in an interesting twist on the genre, it focused on the immigrant experience through Jon, and his brother (Mikael Persbrandt), Danish immigrants and former soldiers.
You can rent The Salvation off iTunes.