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The Salvation - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Salvation
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B

The Salvation isn't as good as any lover of great Westerns wants it to be, but it's enough to tide one over. As the genre most intimately tied to American mythology, it long ago felt played out, and something truly visionary has to come along these days to break through with any real force. No one's going to see this one as a breakthrough. It does, however, take the story in unexpected directions, providing for sufficient engagement.

Mads Mikkelsen is Jon, the Danish cowboy who was once a soldier fighting Germans, now greeting his wife and son, bringing them to America and seeing them for the first time in seven years. Unfortunately, due to a run-in with some bad guys who force their way into their coach at the train station, wife and son don't last through the night. This is the catalyzing event of the story, which is really all about revenge -- twice over.

Jon is thrown out of the coach, and runs after them, eventually catching up to them on foot. He finds his dead son on the road along the way; his wife in the coach later. For reasons never revealed, one of the two bad guys is already dead when Jon arrives, and Jon shoots the other with abandon.

But, a complication. After all the aforementioned events basically serve as an extended introductory sequence, Jon arrives back in his small Western town with the bodies. This town is "protected" by a very bad man named Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, saddled with the dumbest lines), and guess what? The man Jon shot was Delarue's brother. Delarue is so hell bent on finding whoever killed his brother that he kills townspeople just for not finding the culprit within two hours.

Jonathan Pryce, who seems to be everywhere, shows up as the Mayor. Eva Green is Madelaine, also known as "The Princess," was the deceased brother's wife and is now under Delarue's thumb. Medelaine walks around with a scar gashed diagonally across her lips, having had her tongue cut out by Indians. This means Green has exactly zero lines in this movie -- and yet she gets second billing, just below Mikkelsen. It's well deserved, actually: Madelaine has plans of her own, and without her (and Green's infectiously brooding portrayal of her), The Salvation would be far less interesting.

The script, by Anders Thomas Jensen and Kristian Levring, leaves a bit to be desired in the dialogue, which makes the silent Madelaine stick out even more. But at least the plot beats move the story forward with gripping intent, and it doesn't hurt that cinematographer Jens Schlosser shoots every scene with a noticeably unique eye. Nighttime scenes beautifully lit by moonlight (artificially? it doesn't matter) are a jarring juxtaposition to the dark deeds at hand.

Another fascinating bit about The Salvation is that it’s a Western that is not an American film; made by a Danish director, using a Danish star, shot in the deserts of South Africa. There's a few scenes with subtitles, and unlike most Westerns, they aren't for dialogue with Indians -- which, incidentally, though they are discussed, are never seen in this movie. Rather, they are lines spoken in Danish. If anything sets this movie apart from other Westerns, it's the integration of issues of immigration dating back to the mid-nineteenth century.

Which is to say, there's a great deal of potential in The Salvation, much of which it doesn't meet. The story considers some fascinating subtexts, but then abandons them in favor of a vengeance-fueled shootout that serves as the movie's climax. It's undeniably exciting to watch, but without any more than that, the movie winds up merely good rather than great.

Eva Green and Mads Mikkelsen get their revenge in THE SALVATION.

Overall: B
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