Its 1871 in the Wild West and ex-pat Danish solider Jon, (Mads Mikkelsen) is welcoming his wife and ten year old son after their long journey from Denmark. Opting to take the stagecoach to his farm near Black Creek, the family are also joined by two drunken outlaws not long released from prison. It doesn’t take long for the journey to take a turn for the worse as one of the bandits attempts to touch up Jon’s wife and threatens his young boy.
As Jon takes matters into his own hands, it sets in motion a series of serious repercussions, not only for Jon, but for the local community. Unfortunatley for Jon one of the bandits was the brother of a notorious gang leader and outlaw, Delarue’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who demands that compensation is needed in the form of human lives.
The town’s sheriff/priest (Douglas Henshall) and mayor/undertaker (Jonathan Pryce) are helpless to do anything but to bow down to Delarue and his gang. With Delarue also taking advantage of his brother’s demise by having his way with his beautiful mute wife, Madelaine (Eva Green), its up to Jon and his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) to survive, restore order and take revenge.
The Salvation is a gripping old school spaghetti western story of revenge directed by Danish filmmaker Kristian Levring. The story contains all the basic ingredients of a western and has a lot in common with High Noon (1952). At times it is searingly tense, gritty and grubby particularly the devastating opening scenes that really sets the tone, although never manages to reach these heights throughout the film.
Mads Mikkelsen is the main protagonist, always covered in either swear or mud as the captivating action hero. Most importantly he is able to pull off both the peaceful handsome family man and vengeful gunslinger with nothing to lose to great effect. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is also very good as the twisted and destructive outlaw Delarue. Although the role plays up to some of the cliches of the genre, a believable performance of a menacing criminal villain.
However, and I’m sure its not the first time anyone will say this, its Eva Green that shines brightest. Despite playing a disfigured Native American who has had her tongue cut out rendering her a mute, she does all the talking with her eyes. As they glare and burn into the screen you can feel her story without her muttering a single word.
The film also gives an insight into the period we are in for America as the land of opportunity. This was a time of migration and many new immigrants where coming to America to seek out a new life for themselves including Jon and his family, Peter and Delarue’s henchmen Corsican (Eric Cantona). However there is also a stark reminder from Eva Green’s character that the Native Americans have been all been driven out or killed and are now being replaced by immigrants helps give the film context.
Shot on location in South Africa the scenery is gorgeous complete with CGI to help recreate the setting of Monument Valley. For the most part the visuals are very good and the action well shot, although there are some questionable effects. When its good its gripping and savage but when its bad its predictable, cliche and underdeveloped. This is still a decent revenge western with some fine performances. The Salvation is a tale of murder, survial and revenge its a fairly straightforward spaghetti western plot that knows how to homage the genre as well as delivering a violent and enjoyable action film.
The Salvation is due for UK release later this year.