Taking a break from his role as Lecter on HBO’s Hannibal, now in production for a third season, Mads Mikkelson delights us with an old-style western in The Salvation, from Danish director Kristian Levring.
Throwing together a group of Wild West stereotypes and genre clichés could produce a tired-looking period drama, especially after Tarantino succeeded so monumentally with Django Unchained in 2012. However, The Salvation manages to walk the fine line between commercial and art-house in making a film that could please the film lover and the art critic alike.
The script flatters Fred Zinnermann’s High Noon in some respects, following a tale of one man up against a whole band of killers, trying to defend the townspeople and keep his honour. In this case, that man is Jon (Mikkelson) who is reunited with his wife (Nanna Oland Fabricius) and son (Toke Lars Bjarke) at the train station after years fighting in the American civil war. No sooner is the family in a carriage riding away from the station than a band of drunken cowboys hijack their car and murder Jon’s family. Distraught, Jon goes on a quest to avenge their deaths and bring justice to the land.
Though it’s trying to achieve a semi-serious tone, it’s a rollicking good ride with plenty of shoot-outs and horse chases, mean old sheriffs and bars with swing doors. Mikkelson makes the perfect hero, and aces the morally upstanding outlaw with echoes of Eastwood in his swagger.
Despite trying to be thoroughly American in spirit, there’s something undeniably Danish about the film that doesn’t ring true to the Western genre. However, overall The Salvation is a lot of fun to watch and has some beautiful scenes and set pieces that everyone can enjoy.