Hard to imagine the origins of a western such as The Salvation. Directed by Kristian Levring, a filmmaker better known as a Dogma ‘95 suscriber (The King Is Alive), the movie features British, French, American and Scandinavian actors, led by Denmark’s best known thespian Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal). Somehow, this hodgepodge of nationalities and influences gives way to a very competent film, much in line with the Clint Eastwood-Sergio Leone collaborations.
Mikkelsen is Jon, a Danish settler hoping to build a new life for his family in the far west. Not even a day after his wife and son land in America, they are murdered by a couple of drunks. Jon takes revenge, unaware one of the men he killed was the brother of Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Watchmen), the head of the region’s most notorious gang. Delarue puts a price on Jon’s head and the locals are only too happy to oblige. Unbeknownst to everyone, Jon knows a thing or two about guns and may have a fighting chance.
The Salvation operates under the belief self-interest trumps all (Jon’s only ally during this ordeal is his own brother, with whom he escaped the horrors of war). This Hobbesian view of human nature goes beyond individual pursuits: Delarue’s mayhem is sponsored by deep-pocket investors who plan to buy land cheap and exploit the oil that lies beneath.
Mikkelsen’s approach to the character is straight from the Pale Rider book: Stoic, unassuming and practically mute. The rest of the cast is colorful in its own right: From Eva Green’s highly coveted widow to Jonathan Pryce’s Major/undertaker, there is an effort to go beyond townsfolk stereotypes and give every little part some substance.
As horrid as Jon’s battle against Delarue gets, the film is perfectly entertaining and gives the foremost American genre a much needed update. And you can check Hannibal at night for a double dose of Mikkelsen.
Three silent but deadly prairie dogs. The Salvation plays for the last time at 1.30 and 6.30 pm at Studio 7.