The Salvation is a grim and dark western that makes the most of its stars and straightforward storytelling.
Following a pair of Danish immigrants, Jon & Peter, in the post-Civil War American west, Jon’s wife and child finally make the trip overseas before tragedy quickly strikes the family. In the mayhem of the same incident, a local outlaw, Delarue, has a brother who also perishes so Delaure and his crew go on the hunt for the killer, putting a local town in peril when they are threatened unless they turn in the killer.
The tragedy that unfolds you can see coming from a mile away, but it’s Delarue’s hold over this town that introduces the film’s most interesting wrinkle. Jon’s life is put at risk because everyone in town knows who he is and they all know he was with Delarue’s brother on the night he died. The town doesn’t know the whole story, but everyone’s allegiance in the town isn’t known by everyone either.
I’m being coy because this ninety minute film has enough surprises that I don’t want to spoil it all, but I do think the film could have had a bit more fun with the twists and turns. The film ends up where you think it’s going to, but this isn’t a problem because the pacing is strong and the film doesn’t waste a beat along the way. The film is wonderfully photographed and finds a nice way to give a little bit of style to the picture that helps it stand out from other westerns. This is the first film by Kristian Levring I’ve seen, and I am intrigued to how this film manifested, but I hope he gets another shot at a film over here because I really enjoyed most of what The Salvation has to offer.
Mad Mikkelsen stars as Jon and his steely demeanor works wonderfully in the western genre. His quiet power is second nature and you can believe he can get anything done when he has to enact his revenge. If only that shoot out at the end could have been a little more complex and exciting. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays Delarue and is a great bad guy, never taking things over the top without ever losing his power. Eva Green also pops up as a tongueless widow to Delarue’s brother, and while it’s a travesty to take that woman’s words away, she smolders up a storm so that we always know what she is thinking. She’s underutilized for sure, but I can’t turn down an opportunity for more Eva Green. Seriously, who cast Eva Green as someone who can’t even talk?
The Salvation is a fine little western, but it’s pitch dark take on humanity may be too much for some. It’s a revenge film where things get so rough the revenge might not even quench your thirst. Still, it is well acted and handsomely put together and anyone who is a fan of the genre should certainly check it out.