Here I go again with Danish movies 🙂 This time they decided to offer their view on the western genre. I watched a tone of western movies as a kid and they were mostly classics. I later revisited them and sorta formed my “western” tastebuds without even considering some things that The Salvation highlighted. Written by one of the best Danish writers Anders Thomas Jensen (Adam’s Apples, Fear Me Not, In a Better World…) and starring Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green and Jeffrey Dean Morgan also known as Javier Bardem’s doppelganger, this movie will blow you away. Upon retrospect I found that it has a real western story and atmosphere. Only the way it was filmed was different. And that difference made the movie.
Their ability to draw in the viewer into the screen and then threw them to the truly wild West is something that I haven’t seen in a long time. Its bleak atmosphere filled with tension was only amplified by phenomenal character development. And while most of the ye olde westerns used that “we-know-it’s-fucked-up-but-we’re-strong-men” vibe to generate atmosphere and general outlook of the movie, The Salvation created a more realistic one, rational and unforgiving. If you’ve watched the television show Deadwood you’ll know what I’m talking about. Although Deadwood also had this let’s just say humorous vibe to it. Still, it stayed well-rooted in the western genre with a familiar story of a mysterious stranger, small town, and a band of bandits.
For seven long years, Jon built his ranch in the wild west. He had help from his brother Peter, but his wife and kid were thousands of miles away, in Denmark. Life was hard back then, without government and almost any sort of rules, but people still managed to survive. Now that he has a ranch, Jon is finally able to send for his family. They meet at the train station, reunited after all those years and proceed to their new home…
The thing that I felt the most during the movie was the terrible sense that anything can happen at any time. Just like in real life, fucked up and good things just happen and we are left with them. In fact, if you don’t like westerns you can look at this movie as a sociological and psychological study of the beginnings of the society. However, if you came for bullets, blood and brevenge, you’re still in the right place. The Salvation has everything, and the title itself perhaps symbolizes the revival of the western genre.
Another thing that I enjoyed immensely is the stunning visuals. Whoever did the location scouting needs a fucking reward. They were simply beautiful. With a runtime of just ninety minutes, The Salvation never got boring or overstretched. The pacing was just right from an incredibly engaging beginning over the intriguing middle and finally, a grand finale. If you liked this style of a western movie, I suggest you continue your exploration of the genre with something with a similar atmosphere, only a bit darker: Bone Tomahawk.
Director: Kristian Levring
Writer: Anders Thomas Jensen, Kristian Levring
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eric Cantona, Mikael Persbrandt, Jonathan Pryce
Fun Facts: The role of Jon’s brother, Peter, was intended for Mads Mikkelsen’s brother, Lars Mikkelsen. When he dropped out, Mads Mikkelsen suggested Mikael Persbrandt to replace him.