Brief Thoughts: The Salvation (Movie Review)

I really enjoy putting my reviews together.  I honestly wish I could delve deeper into certain movies, but alas, I get incredibly busy and can sometimes only deal with movies to a briefer extent than I would prefer.  This is why I write these occasional "Brief Thoughts" posts on movies I have seen, as I want to at least offer some of my own perspective on them.  They may not be as polished, but I can at least get my opinions out there.  This brief thought is focused on The Salvation, a Danish western starring Mads Mikkelsen.

The Salvation: 3 out of 5

If there is one thing you can tell from The Salvation, it is that writer/director Kristian Levring certainly has a love of all the old westerns.  This is a film that has a little bit of everything thrown in, though it does not portray the west as a wonderful place to be.  The Salavation is a dark western, with tough-as-nails characters sitting on both sides of what is right.  Mads Mikkelsen stars as Jon, a Danish settler, who has been living in 1870s America for some time.  His wife and son finally arrive in the country to join him, only to be murdered by some bad folk.  Jon takes his revenge, but it leads to a violent gang leader wanting to get his own justice in return.

There is not a lot of story here and the film is thankfully not very long.  Even in terms of pacing, The Salvation is a film that gets to the point fairly quick, while making attempts to preserve the aesthetics of the genre, for the most part.  This is a good-looking film, with South Africa doubling for the old west.  It also features simple, but effective performances from all involved.  Mikkelsen is joined by Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jonathan Pryce, and Mikael Persbrandt.  Some of these characters merely get a hint of character development, while most are simply playing types.  That in mind, this is less of a film concerned with why everyone is who they are and more about how they are used for this story.

That becomes something of an issue.  While I may appreciate a simple western tale, there are some good actors here, who I would not mind seeing more of, if it came to dealing with how they came to be a certain way.  Thematically, there is plenty here about morality, corruption, what it is to be an outlaw or gunman, and thoughts on westward expansion.  Of course, we have also seen this is plenty of westerns before, so it makes you wonder what is really needed here as far as the ideas presented goes, versus getting more of the characters we haven't seen before.

It eventually makes little difference, as the third act delivers plenty of neat western action that could have only been cooler if the film did not have such a clear digital sheen on top of it.  The Salvation may present the old west, but it has not been made in the old school way, despite some strong cinematography in various moments that capture this film's version of the frontier.  Still, it gets the job done when it comes to showing us some dark material matched with Mads Mikkelsen in the role of a western bad ass.

Not a lot to grasp onto, as far as great modern westerns are concerned, but The Salvation is a fun watch for fans of the genre.  It certainly feels as if it is a western fan bringing one of his early dream ideas to life, but the film has enough presence as far as the actors and production design goes to make for an entertaining 90 minutes, albeit a somber form of entertainment.  Still, I like Mads Mikkelsen, so that is what ultimately makes it worthwhile.


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