Deliberately inviting comparison with the films of Sergio Leone is a dangerous game for any director to play, given how revered the great man’s films are amongst the likes of yours truly. Yet Kristian Levring recklessly throws caution to the wind in The Salvation, a solid, atmospheric western starring the wonderful Mads Mikkelsen.
Mikkelsen is an actor I have a lot of time for, mainly due to his roles in Casino Royale and A Royal Affair. Here he proves an excellent western lead, playing Danish immigrant Jon, a man trying to settle in America following the disastrous Danish war against the Germans. When his wife is raped and child killed, he exacts instant and deadly revenge on those responsible, but in the process attracts the ire of local landowning bigwig Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who happened to be brother to one of the killers.
As I mentioned already, Levring references Leone at several moments, but he just about manages to get away with this because his film is compelling enough in its own right. This isn’t just a Once upon a time in the West meets High Noon knock-off, but a brutal and beautiful piece of work that stands on its own two feet. It isn’t destined to be a classic, but it doesn’t need to be. It is, above all, a cracking, violent and satisfying revenge western in the time honoured tradition of the genre.
As well as Mikkelsen, the cast includes a clutch of decent supporting performances from the likes of the afore-mentioned Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eric Cantona, Jonathan Pryce, Douglas Henshall, Mikael Persbrandt and Eva Green. The music score by Kasper Winding also deserves a special mention. The only thing I really didn’t care for were some of the unconvincing CGI fires towards the end, but that is little more than nit-picking.
In summary, if you fancy watching Mads do what a man’s gotta do, The Salvation pretty much hits the spot.