Modern Westerns have been a little lacklustre in the past few years, but director Kristian Levring has made a novel attempt with The Salvation. The Danish director sculpts this traditional story of personal revenge and retribution, bringing an innovative style to the genre. Despite the heavy presence of Denmark in the cast and crew, it is mostly in English: less spaghetti western, more Danish pastry western. With a decent amount of semi-recognisable faces, this film is arid and exhausting, but wholly entertaining.
The film opens on Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen, an early settler whose wife and son are joining him in the new country. This is high point for him in the story, as the subsequent events can only be described as unfortunate. His rash actions leave him with a bounty on his head and no foreseeable way out. His performance matches the intensity of the film and keeps you captivated. His ruthless opposition is played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, for whom this role is a far cry from Grey’s Anatomy and PS I Love You. He gives a sound performance as what is essentially a school bully. Further decent performances come from Eva Green and Jonathon Pryce, but no real standouts.
What is most interesting about this film is that although it conforms to many of the Western genre traditions, there is something distinctly different about it. It was very unlike the washed-out Coen brothers’ depictions of the Wild West, with each daytime scene saturated with colour akin to graphic novels, and nighttime being eerie to the point of horror. Something has to be said for Green’s character Madelaine, who as a mute, mutilated woman, is just as violent and ruthless as any of the men. This is refreshing to see in a genre that is almost exclusively dominated by aggressive male characters.
The score and construction is enough to merit this film, the performances and abundance of killing are an added bonus. As an homage to the traditional American Western, Levring has done a decent job of both following and breaking the rules.
The Salvation is released nationwide on 17th April 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Salvation here: