Cert 15 | ★★★☆☆
The Salvation is the tale of a Viking cowboy, which is reason enough to see it right there.
Mads Mikkelsen (pictured above) is a war veteran, who fled Denmark for a peaceful life in the American West. After seven years he is joined by his wife and child, but when they are taken by a group of violent men he seeks vengeance.
The unreal, mesa-strewn landscape is barren and mystical with slowly bubbling oil pools hinting at background corruption. Dust storms blow in a manifestation of the desert’s indifference to humanity whose colourful, flimsy artefacts it blasts from view. When the rains finally come they are even less forgiving. Mikkelsen’s face, all flint and cheekbones, looks like it was hewn from the side of a mountain; he’s a man at home in this world, the personification of its savage beauty.
Mikkelsen’s Casino Royale co-star Eva Green plays a woman whose tongue was cut out by native Americans. She is silent, steely, austere and alluring, the embodiment of feminine power and vulnerability. In fact, all of the characters are archetypes: Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s land baron is rapacity, Jonathan Pryce’s mayor is political self-interest, Douglas Henshall’s preacher-sheriff is moral cowardice and Eric Cantona’s Corsican is Eric Cantona.
The film has a pared down quality that invites the viewer to lend it deeper meaning, an experience which is engrossing at the time, but in retrospect seems less substantial. The final shot almost demands an allegorical reading – perhaps it’s a belated comment on the invasion of Iraq? – but it doesn’t need to be so clever. The Salvation is a fable, and there is power in its raw simplicity.
CRITIC’S CHOICE: FILM
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