Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The Salvation

It has been said many times, and it is true - it is very difficult to add anything fresh, original or new to the traditional Western genre. It’s a genre known and loved for its clichés and iconography – the stagecoaches, the dusty frontier towns, the horses and the shootouts; you can look at one scene from any Western and know exactly what you’re watching. Back in the 1950s and 60s, you were never far from a new Western film – some of which have become some of the most highly regarded films of all time, particularly the Spaghetti Westerns. In recent years, Western films have been rather sporadic and even rarer still is a good one. 

Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray is The Salvation, directed by Kristian Levring. In 1870s, Danish immigrant Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) has been waiting for years to bring his wife and son to the US. Moments after their arrival they fall victim to a horrific crime. Out of grief and despair Jon kills the perpetrator – but little does he know the man’s brother is the ruthless Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who will stop at nothing to avenge his murdered brother. It’s not exactly an original plot – even the recent Liam Neeson thriller Run All Night, one of the last films I reviewed, is rather similar. Revenge films all tend to be a little predictable when they become a case of “you killed my [insert relative here]”. And as discussed, the Western genre itself is rather predictable in itself. So does The Salvation stand out in any way?

Firstly, the acting is solid throughout. Mads Mikkelsen, known to most people today as TV’s Hannibal, delivers a superb performance as Jon. With great presence, he overflows with intensity. Eva Green, who starred with Mikkelsen in Casino Royale, is equally brilliant as the mute Madelaine, who despite not speaking having had her tongue taken by Indians, evokes a lot of emotion and power. But the film belongs to Jeffrey Dean Morgan who, after playing the psychopathic Comedian in Watchmen, proves again that he can make the most horrifying and violent characters the highlight of a film. The Salvation has elements of a love letter to the traditional Western, particularly those of Sergio Leone and John Ford. But despite being filled with references and homages, it is more than just that. It is a very good Western in its own right without being compared to those that have come before it, or being labelled a pastiche. There is originality here, with the most obvious example being the unconventional use of a Danish character as the ‘hero’, rather than an all-American gunslinger.

Much like the making of the Wild West itself, The Salvation is something of a multi-national affair. It is a Danish film, set in America, shot in South Africa and starring a wide group of actors from Denmark, France, America, Sweden, Scotland and Wales – and that’s just the main cast! It’s this racially diverse cast and crew that makes the film so different and original. And visually, the look of the film throughout is simply stunning in its harsh grittiness. Despite being shot in South Africa, the locations feel authentic and look like a vintage Western setting. You almost expect Clint Eastwood to show up in his poncho, chewing on a little cigar. But again, even if it is clearly inspired by the good old days of Western, it still stands strongly on its own.

The Salvation is a very well made piece of work from Kristian Levring. Whilst being clearly inspired by the rich history of Western cinema, it is more than ‘just another modern western’. There is originality in the very talented cast, truly fantastic visuals throughout and some brilliant action – particularly in the Wild Bunch-esque final showdown. After all, what’s a Western without a final showdown?

The Salvation is a savagely beautiful modern Western with enough to make it stand out from many of the other cliché-ridden Westerns of the past few years. 4/5.


 Sam Love

The Salvation at CeX

Get your daily CeX at

Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
ma.gnolia squidoo newsvine live netscape tailrank mister-wong blogmarks slashdot spurl