The Salvation: 50 Furious Westerns Series
When Denmark lost the war against Austria and Prussia, many Danes serving in its army migrated to the US, to start a new life. So do Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) and his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) in the Western The Salvation by Kristian Levring. A Danish Western, shot in beautiful South Africa, an exciting premise.
Unfortunately, a quiet settler’s life is not possible for Jon, because when his wife and son also move out west four years after him and his brother, all their dreams of a life together on the family farm are shattered as his family gets brutally murdered on the stagecoach trip from the train station. His life in shambles, he goes after the murderers and kills them. Bad luck for him, as one of them was the brother of local badman Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his mute accomplice Madleine (Eva Green), who suck villages dry and terrorize them to make the country fit for oil exploration.
Delarue sends out his thugs to hunt down Jon and Peter. Peter is doing well alongside Jon, and sacrifices himfelf for his fight for survival against the mean gang and their accomplices in the town, who have nothing but help out Delarue. In the end, Peter doesn’t survive the struggle either, and it is up to Jon to put an end to it. He traps Delarue and his gang and takes the fight to them. Mercilessly, the war veteran goes after them, and eventually the soil is drenched in blood just as it is in oil. A gruesome metaphor for progress in the wild west…
Levring pull out all stops and harnesses the genre’s features plenty. The great landscapes of South Africa represent convincingly the landscape of the mid west, and his style of directing is neatly influenced by the likes of Clint Eastwood, John Ford and Sergio Leone. The Salvation is a highly interesting looking western, with just a bit much Instagram filter, but lots of extensive shots and intense close ups. The soundtrack reminds a little of Wim Wenders‘ movies, highly influenced by Ry Cooder, but it gives the movie an extremely melancholic tonality.
The cast is great, but Levring’s vision of the West is one of little words, leaving not much room for acting extravaganza. Morgan’s presence evaporates a little, and Eva Green ends up being erotic ornament in an otherwise emotionless revenge flick. Unfortunately, Levring fails at building up a proper narrative curve, or a good rhythm of scenes to captivate the audience. Somehow the movie never really takes off, an impressive audiovisual exercise without much soul remains. The Salvation is a mosaic of clichees which will delight western fans, but ultimately that is not enough contribution to the overlal entertainment it should be offering.
This review comes a bit late, but you can now get it on DVD or BluRay pretty soon. For Western fans, you can’t miss the movie, but overall it’s a C.