Shot in South Africa by Danish filmmakers, The Salvation is a gratifyingly old-fashioned Western of the sort Hollywood long ago gave up making. Its rugged frontier hero is cut from the same dustcoat cloth as Clint Eastwood and its plot echoes High Noon, The Searchers, the films of Sergio Leone and countless other examples of the genre.
Mads Mikkelsen’s Jon is a former soldier in the Danish army turned immigrant homesteader and he has been toiling with his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) in a sun-scorched corner of the American southwest for seven years. Now, when the film opens in 1871, he can afford to bring over his wife and son from the old country.
Then comes a violent encounter with two drunken thugs that shatters his dreams of family life and incurs the vengeful wrath of outlaw leader Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his gang.
Director Kristian Levring is a veteran of Dogme 95, the back-to-basics filmmaking movement that gave us such films as Lars von Trier’s The Idiots and Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen, and even though his new film obeys none of the rules propounded by Dogme’s Vow of Chastity (one of which was ‘No genre movies’), it does have its own form of stripped-down purity.
This means there are no great surprises in store as the action moves relentlessly towards a final showdown between Jon and the gang, but the film’s cinematography is gorgeous and the cast play their stock characters with gusto – from Jonathan Pryce as the town’s craven mayor/undertaker to Eric Cantona as a Corsican heavy.
Most striking of all is Eva Green’s mute ‘Princess’, Delarue’s imperious sister-in-law, rescued by the gang from the Indians who abducted her as a girl and cut out her tongue . Eyes ablaze with fury or surveying the world around her with glacial contempt, she does not need words to make her mark. And neither does Mikkelsen’s anguished, resilient, taciturn hero.
Certificate 15. Runtime 92 mins. Director Kristian Levring.
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