Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Salvation (2014) Film Review
Reviewed by: Luke Shaw
The modern Western is a sprawling gritty affair. The scope allows for tension and pathos to build, a stern hero takes weeks to find his mark and the payoff is in equal measure - a quart of blood for every league traversed. As an adherent of the Dogme95 movement, it’s no surprise that Kristian Levering brings an austere feel to the Western, but The Salvation is a slight affair compared to recent epics. Weighing in at just over 90 minutes, it doesn't allow a lot of time for this tale to steep and build strength, instead settling on often clumsy exposition and a double-barrelled opening that leaves us in no doubt of the direction in which this tale of revenge is headed.
Thankfully, the action is anchored to brusque Danish protagonist Jon, played by Mads Mikkelsen, famous for his role as the titular cannibal in TV’s Hannibal. Any Western owes a debt to the Spaghetti Westerns of the Seventies, and Mikkelsen fills the boots of the grizzled man of few words with aplomb. He looks weathered and worn, and conducts himself with the kind of muscular economy that befits a hero dedicated to bloody revenge. The odds are typically stacked against him after he loses his wife and son, newly arrived in virgin America, to the hands of a swarthy recently released prisoner who just so happens to be the brother of the ruthless ex-Colonel Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Delarue is in the business of extorting the local Township of Black Creek with his band of thugs (which includes a bewildered Eric Cantona), though as is often the case in the West, the residents of Black Creek aren’t all as virtuous as they’d like to pretend.
Whilst it brings nothing new to the table, and is strangely compact for a Western, the plot is lean and the setting is captured with appropriate grit. Alongside Mads, Eva Green delivers a keen performance as the mute ‘Princess’, wife to Delarue's dead brother, operating with the same economy as Jon, fitting for those browbeaten and trodden upon by the ruthlessness of the great wild West and the lesser Men who inhabit it. Jonathan Pryce is also notable as the simpering, grubby undertaker and mayor of the town. Sticky oil is frequently brought up as the reason behind all the viciousness, but The Salvation doesn’t have quite the same level of viscosity, and never strikes gold despite being an enjoyable tramp through the frontier. The action is brutal and efficient, and perhaps if the scope of the tale matched the startling vistas it was set amongst, this would be worthy of addition to the pantheon of recent great Westerns. Instead it is an adroit vehicle for Mikkelsen’s brand of hoary action which, all things considered, is no bad thing.Reviewed on: 14 Apr 2015