Ex-soldier Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) and his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) left their native, war torn Denmark to find freedom and prosperity in the American west. After seven long years he is finally able to bring his wife and son across the Atlantic for a reunion. Soon, though, things will take a violent and deadly turn that will force Jon to find “The Salvation.”
Jon is a man who has worked hard, with Peter, to make a comfortable life for his family in America. His hopes and plans for the future are dashed by the brutality of the brother of the leader of an outlaw gang, Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, metaphorically twirling his moustache in evil glee), who controls the local town, including its elders. There is also a scarred femme fatale, Madelaine (Eva Green), the wife of Delarue’s brother, who murdered Jon’s wife and son
Mads’s character is the strong silent type whose thirst for revenge simmers just below his outwardly calm surface. The actor handles the action sequences and shootouts deftly but his character is too enigmatic, keeping the viewer at arms’ length. Eva Green as mute Madelaine proves she can create a sympathetic character without uttering a word. The rest of the cast lacks any distinctive characters. Instead, most are clichéd.
The film does have a good western production design and cinematographer Jens Schlosser gives the film a stark, almost bleak look commensurate with the story. “The Salvation” has all the elements of a classic western but here is something missing – the soul or the spirit of the western genre. I wonder what John Ford, Akira Kurosawa or Sergio Leone would have done. I give it a C+.
After the 1864 defeat of Denmark in the Danish-Prussian wars, Jon (Mads Mikkelsen, "Fear Me Not," TV's 'Hannibal') emigrated to America to begin a new life. His joy in welcoming his wife Marie (Danish singer-songwriter Nanna Øland Fabricius, aka Oh Land) and son Kresten (Toke Lars Bjarke, "In a Better World") is quickly snatched away when the two men sharing their coach force him out at gunpoint and rape and murder Marie. Jon gets his vengeance, but one of the dead men turns out to be the brother of Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, "Watchmen"), the local corrupt land baron who will not rest until he finds Jon in "The Salvation."
Danish cowriter (with "Fear Me Not's" Anders Thomas Jensen)/director Kristian Levring ("Fear Me Not") almost made a pretty good Western. The story, although familiar, is grittier than the Westerns of Hollywood past and Jens Schlosser's ("Fear Me Not") cinematography is stunning, at least until Levring goes style crazy at the film's midpoint, fetishizing the visuals until his film bears more in common with "Sin City" than "Dodge City." This comparison may have been prompted by the presence of Eva Green ("Sin City: A Dame to Kill For"), the mute, tattooed widow of Delarue's brother, and while her presence is always striking, it's disappointing not to hear her throaty purr.
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