A movie review of “The Salvation”: This Western, starring Mads Mikkelsen, is heavy on violence and moral clarity but light on thought and originality. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
“The Salvation” might have been the rare Western to elevate the genre. For one thing, Danish filmmaker Kristian Levring wrote and directed the movie: So to see the American West through the eyes of a European offered the tantalizing possibility of something fresh and unique.
But after a promising start, the film ultimately succumbs to temptation and fades into the same silly, shoot-’em-up Western that’s heavy on violence and moral clarity but light on thought and originality.
Movie Review ★★
‘The Salvation,’ with Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jonathan Pryce, Mikael Persbrandt, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Douglas Henshall. Directed by Kristian Levring, from a screenplay by Levring and Anders Thomas Jensen. 92 minutes. Rated R for violence throughout. SIFF Cinema Uptown.
The story, which takes place just a few years after the Civil War, begins with Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) anxiously awaiting the arrival of his wife and son, a child that he’s never met. Along with brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), Jon immigrated to America from Denmark to start a better life for his family.
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But during an ill-fated stagecoach ride, a couple of thugs rape Jon’s wife and kill mother and son. Enraged, Jon shoots the two men dead. Unfortunately, one of the thugs is the brother of a Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a vicious killer whose gang has been extorting the town for “protection” money. Suffice to say, Delarue is not happy.
You can probably guess what happens the rest of the movie, which is a shame. “The Salvation” squanders several promising plot points and interesting characters.
For example, Jon and Peter are military veterans, having both fought in Denmark’s failed war against Germany. Delarue is a former officer in the Civil War. Levring alludes to the connection between war and the violence of the American West but never fully explores it.
The movie also wastes two intriguing characters: Mallick (Douglas Henshall), the town sheriff who also happens to be a pastor, and Madeline (Eva Green), the mute wife of the thug who murdered Jon’s family.
“The Salvation” is one of those movies that deservedly (and desperately) requires a do over. Unfortunately, what you see is what you get.