Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Genre: Drama/ Western
After killing the man who killed his wife and son, a Danish settler named Jon (Mikkelsen) incurs the wrath of the man’s brother, a ruthless gang leader named Henry Delarue (Morgan). After being betrayed by the cowardly townspeople, Jon is forced to face the outlaws who want him dead alone.
When a film decides to unashamedly pigeon hole itself into the Western genre then it can inevitably only follow a very limited selection of set narratives. Well, The Salvation selects a real tried and tested narrative, but this is potentially not necessarily a problem in isolation as a basic narrative can then be used to examine some truly engaging themes and produce some memorable characters if there is a good script. Unfortunately, despite its potentially cathartic title, The Salvation offers very little substance to go with its abundance of intentional pastiche style.
There is no denying that Director Kristian Levring is very happy to wear his references very much on his sleeve, with every sun-drenched widescreen shot of the barren and unforgiving landscape encapsulating the isolation and danger that is a daily feature of life for its inhabitants.
The performances too are exceptional and note perfect, even if the actual characters are a tad generic and often feel like lazy genre caricatures. The ever-dependable Mads Mikkelsen brings his usual screen charisma and is excellent as the film’s protagonist Jon, meanwhile Jeffrey Dean Morgan encapsulates with aplomb the genuine cold blooded menace of all classic villains of the western genre.
The great performances and superb visuals make for a very watchable film that at a very lean 92 minutes certainly never outstays its welcome. Kristian Levring is a director that obviously understands genre and captures the mood and tone perfectly of all great Westerns, and like so many films of the genre most certainly has a very predictable narrative. However the ultimate problem that prevents The Salvation from being anywhere near the classics of the genre is its complete lack of substance and minimal character development, therefore making its narrative predictability render it being mediocre due to the sheer lack of emotional involvement when the inevitable shoot-outs happen. We are of course routing for the characters that we should be, but it would be nice to feel more involved and that more was at actual stake.
Ultimately, the extreme predictability of The Salvation does become reassuring in some ways, and though there is stunning visuals and an array of superb performances, it cannot help but become yet another forgettable genre piece.
Despite its stunning visuals and some great performances, a total lack of substance means that though The Salvation is an extremely watchable film, it cannot help but fall into the trap of being just another generic genre piece.