Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jonathan Pryce
Dir: Kristian Levring
Cert: 15A Running Time 92 mins
Release Date (Ireland): April 17th 2015
Set in the 1870’s in North America, The Salvation tells the story of a Danish immigrant Jon (played by Mads Mikkelsen) who has toiled for seven long years with his brother to finally have the means to send for his wife and son to join him. Taking the long journey home by stagecoach they run into trouble with two other drunken passengers, a recently released prisoner and his companion. When they try to molest his wife Marie, Jon retaliates and is thrown from the moving carriage leaving his wife and son unprotected. By the time he catches up with them, they have been murdered and grief-stricken Jon shoots both men dead, not knowing that one of them is the brother of the local gang leader Colonel Delarue (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
When Delarue hears of his brother’s demise he demands the local Mayor (Jonathan Pryce) and Sherriff (Douglas Henshall) find the man who did it or he will kill two of their townsfolk. In a town that already pays protection money to Delarue, people are scared and Jon’s quest for revenge quickly turns the town of Black Creek against him.
Shot with South Africa standing in as the Wild West, The Salvation’s sweeping vistas and beautiful but harsh landscapes play a large part in the isolation and lawlessness of Black Creek.
The plot is a simple one that we’ve seen many times but in director Kristian Levring’s hands it’s an intelligent character driven piece executed with a love of the genre. On the downside, allowing his actors room to reflect at times slows the pace and may require more patience from a mainstream audience.
Performances are strong all round but what pulls you in immediately is Mads Mikkelsen (in a role refreshingly different to his chilling turn as Dr. Lecter in TV’s Hannibal). His character is clearly not interested in conflict but when it is thrust upon him and his family, he makes a very swift decision on the action needed and there is no going back. For a man who’s lost everything has nothing else to lose. Mikkelsen is a subtle but powerful actor with great star presence and Levring frames him in close-up for many scenes. When it comes to the action, he is swift and assured, a former soldier who knows his way around a gun.
Playing against him, Jeffrey Dean Morgan brings his own charismatic cool and his scenes with Eva Green in particular are well played, especially as her character Madelaine is mute. Widow to his dead brother, Delarue sees an opportunity for a new romance and the conflict and chemistry between them is fun to watch.
With a strong supporting cast including the always good Jonathan Pryce, the commanding physicality of Eric Cantona as one of Delarue’s gang and Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt’s solo scene stealing turn as Jon’s brother Peter, the film delivers on all aspects you’d expect from the genre.
Levring has said that The Salvation is a tribute to the great American western and it can stand proudly amongst its peers with smart, beautiful direction, outstanding performances and a clean execution of a tightly written screenplay.