Reel Shorts | The Salvation


A grief-stricken family man hunts down the outlaws that killed his family but discovers that it is only the beginning, as he mounts a one-man assault on entire gang in the Western revenge thriller, The Salvation.

Over a century ago, life was hard in the Old West. Unlike the modern conveniences of today, there was certain suddenness about life and the ability to use your wits and knowledge just to survive, daily. The harsh realities of that existence are the central tenets of this story, which begins with a heinous crime and escalates into all-out war.

After reuniting with his wife, Marie (Danish singer, Nanna Øland Fabricius) and their son, former Danish settler, Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) is hopeful and blissful. He has worked hard to create a home for his family and they are just a stagecoach ride away from beginning their new life. Unfortunately, fate steps in when their passengers on the ride are substituted at the last minute for a pair of mysterious riders.

Their cautious manner belies their hidden murderous intent and within moments, one of the men disrespects Marie, takes their son hostage and kicks Jon out of the coach. Jon finds his son dead, thrown from the coach and Marie raped and murdered. Jon takes matters into his own hands avenging his family but discovers that his true hell has only begun.

Meanwhile, the brother of one of the victims, Colonel Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is none-too-pleased when he discovered his brother has been killed. A powerful but corrupt land baron who has been hired to coerce the townspeople to sell their land for filthy corporate interests, he offers an extremely-high bounty to find his brother’s killer, murdering several innocent townspeople in his wake.

Delarue now assumes responsibility for the care of his dead brother’s widow, Madeline (Eva Green), a mute whose tongue was cut out by Indians after her extended grieving when they murdered her family. Unaware that he is now being hunted, Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) are trying to get on with their lives. He sells his spread, with the intent of going west. But before the ink can dry, Jon is betrayed by the townspeople, who capture him and bring him to Delarue.

This take on the Old West from Danish director Kristian Levring, co-written with Anders Thomas Jensen, shows the harsh realities of the time from an outside, foreign perspective. Unlike the romanticized films of the 1940s, 50s and 60s, Levering’s story is fight of survival, a dog-eat-dog existence where one could lose everything in a second if one senses any weakness. Levring’s West has no justice, only that which exists at the barrel of a gun.

Both Mikkelsen and Morgan are solid. Blessed with the amazing ability to infuse both heroic and sympathetic as well as despicable characters with grace in dignity, Mikkelsen is Danish acting royalty, and deservedly so. Whether being falsely accused in the tense thriller, The Hunt or being diabolically evil in the television series, Hannibal, Mikkelsen is highly-effective in either extremes.

Giving each of his characters a welcome edge, Morgan is deliciously evil as a vindictive thug who will stop at nothing, even sleeping with his sister-in-law, to get what and who he wants. Despite the motivation being crystal clear for Jon and Delarue, Madeline’s story feels underserved. Green is wasted in this testosterone-driven tale, only existing to provide comfort and assistance but not much else.

In spite of an authentic Western feel, impressive costume design and a solid pair of leads, The Salvation largely hinges on the credibility of Mikkelsen, who is more than serviceable. Too bad, the film doesn’t match his intensity.Much like the classic 1952 film, High Noon, Jon is forsaken by the townspeople and must go it alone to finally find peace. Unlike the star of that Western classic, Gary Cooper, who gave the townspeople a huge “f**k you” once the battle was over, the inhabitants of The Salvation aren’t as lucky.

Grade: C+