Cert: 15 / 92 mins / Dir. Kristian Levring / Trailer
Everybody dies.*1 This harsh but universal truth has rarely been exemplified quite as forcefully than in Kristian Levring's good old-fashioned (albeit with a startlingly contemporary attitude toward screen-violence) revenge-Western, The Salvation. Out to avenge the murder of his wife and son in a remote US settlement, war veteran Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) is forced to take on a gang of outlaws led by the brutish Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his unwilling bride-to-be, the devious Madelaine (Eva Green).
Well, there's an alarmingly high quantity of missing-eyes in this film, isn't there? Was cyclopean-vision really that much of a problem back in the Wild West, or is it being used to illustrate why 'Optometrist' rarely features in the wooden store-signage on display in Westerns?
Flippancy aside, The Salvation is pretty grim stuff, and director Kristian Levring lingers on the scowling faces of his cast as much as he does the ochre backdrop of the South African desert which stands in for frontier-America. Speaking of which, there's some stunning camerawork and lighting on display here (although please remember, DoPs, vignetted shots look great until the camera starts to move, then the film looks like you're trying out the filters on your first holiday movie). That said, at a tight 92 minutes, the screenplay has no time to mess about. That scenery may be beautiful, but the audience aren't left standing around to take it all in.
A tight script is minimal on exposition, setting the scene then focusing on the characters themselves and their actions. Although the film is predominantly English-Language, the stretches of subtitled Danish are more than welcome, adding an extra layer of realism to an already grim tale. Although for a film intent on showing the harsh reality of human nature, it seems odd that not a single firearm (and there are many) shows any sign of recoil, at all. Mikkelsen, Morgan and Green all give solid performances and are backed up ably by Jonathan Pryce as the township's cowardly mayor/undertaker, and wee Dougie Henshall as his corrupt Sheriff. I'm not entirely sure why Eric Cantona is onboard as a fat, bearded but ultimately one-dimensional outlaw, but he doesn't derail things too much, so I'll give him points for trying.
My only real complaint about the film is a grammatical error in one of the subtitles. Early in the first act, Jon says to his wife and child, "I've build an extension so there's room for all of us". 'I've build'? 'I've build'? First we have Tom Hardy making up his own words in Child 44, then the subtitles in an actual released film have infant-school level grammar? Who's in charge of Hollywood, these days?
But if you like your Westerns full of barely restrained threat and one-hit-kills, The Salvation may just be right up your alley.
To be fair, this is a one for cheap-Tuesdays or Meerkat Wednesdays.
It'll be a decent rental. Unless you're into relentlessly grim tales of lawless outback towns, in which case it's £12 well spent.
I don't have a lot of history with Mads Mikkelsen, but he seems ideal for the role, yes.
I think it does, but I'd have liked the film to achieve it over and extra half-hour or so.
There bloody isn't. For shame.
Mads Mikkelsen appeared in 2010's Clash Of The Titans remake, as did Liam 'Qui-Gon' Neeson.
*1 Okay, not 'everyone' in here dies, but trust me - you can't expect a happy ending for a story which was never really happy in the first place.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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