The Salvation

Dir: Kristian Levring
Star: Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eva Green, Mikael Persbrandt

If Italian movies are called "spaghetti Westerns" what are Danish ones called? I'm trying to think of iconic Danish products. Lego westerns? Carlsberg westerns? Sorry, I got nothing. Whatever they are, this would be the first I've ever seen, starring Mikkelsen as immigrant settler Jon, whose wife and son are killed, almost immediately on their arrival in the US, by a pair of thugs. Naturally, Jon takes swift, brutal revenge - only to find that the killers were just part of a larger, nastier problem - the gang led by Henry Delarue (Morgan), whose brother was one of those taken out by Jon, and who has been working to buy up all the local land on behalf of an oil company. Delarue takes in his brother's widow, Madelaine (Green), whom he has always coveted, only for her to betray him - bringing his wrath down on her as well. After escaping from DeLaRue's grasp with the help of his brother (Persbrandt), Jon turns round and heads back, intent on completing his mission of vengeance, which now encompasses the big boss as well.

It's weird how we stumbled across this. We've been enjoying Danish dramedy series Rita on Netflix, and one of the joys has been singing along with the theme song. While looking up its singer, Oh Land, we discovered she (briefly!) played Jon's murdered wife in this, and decided to check it out. Glad we did, for it is one of the best of the "new Westerns" I've seen recently, this manages to hit the beloved old marks, while doing so with a fresh eye. It's helped enormously by the performances of both Mikkelsen and Morgan at the center of proceedings, facing off in a matter that would have made both Sergio Leone and John Ford proud. Credit also cinematographer Jens Schlosser, who turns the landscape into an almost mystical experience of colours. It's certainly not a cheerful viewing experience - indeed, they could have called this "It's Grim Out West" and likely been more accurate, since I'm still uncertain about the actual title's meaning. However, if you're in the mood for something tough and ruthless, this delivers with both barrels.

[March 2016]

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