A Danish settler in the old West wreaks terrible revenge on his attackers.
Your enjoyment of The Salvation will be directly proportional to your familiarity with Western films. I say this because it is, in many ways, a glossy ‘Best Of’ album for the genre as a whole.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Danish director Kristian Levring borrows (steals?) from the very best in the business, mixes it with a pin sharp presentation and throws in a strong leading performance from the stony-faced Mads Mikkelsen.
The Salvation doesn’t pull and punches, mostly because it wants you to be fully on board with the violence which our leading character Jon will wreak throughout the rest of the picture. Suffice to say that by the closing of act 1, you’ll be right with him for the rest of the journey.
Entirely shot in South Africa, the film does a good job of conjuring up those big skies and rocky outcrops of the Western, complete with some iffy CG rendering of Monument Valley. Speaking of iffy CG, there’s some fabricated fire here which looks its straight out of an early 90s videogame cutscene.
It’s all a fairly slick affair and doesn’t shy away from the onscreen violence but its bigger moments just feel so familiar, especially an extended reference to the farm scene in Once Upon a Time in the West which goes beyond homage to become something altogether more lazy.
Still, there’s a gutsy energy to the thing and the cast helps to keep things interesting, including Eva Green and a random appearance by Eric Cantona. Mikkelsen makes for a great put-upon killer, with only Jeffrey Dean Morgan seeming hopelessly miscast.
If you’ve missed that old Western feeling you could certainly do far worse than The Salvation with its self-aware framing and familiar score but it didn’t do enough to raise itself above cliché for me. Though the over the top nature of the ending is certainly a lot of fun.