There’s been an inclination of late for the Americans to remake popular Scandinavian productions, be it Nordic Noir or Danish TV series from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to The Killing. So it seems only fair that every now and again the roles will reverse, and it will be the Danes taking influence from Hollywood – which is evident in Kristian Levring’s western thriller The Salvation, playing up to the conventionalities of the genre with an ingenious, European twist.
It’s 1870s America, and Mads Mikkelsen plays Jon, a peaceful settler, who after several years finally welcomes his estranged wife and young son to the States. Though their stay is short-lived, as within a mere matter of hours during a lengthy journey through the desolate landscape, two drunkards prey upon the beautiful foreigner, only to then murder her in cold blood – along with her son. Jon instantly seeks vengeance, savagely taking revenge – but without realising that those he has just killed happen to be related to the most feared outlaw in the whole town, Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) – who, alongside the deceased’s wife Madelaine (Eva Green) are now seeking some revenge of their own.
Though this period piece abides affectionately to the tropes of the Western genre, the setting becomes almost irrelevant, and just a mere backdrop to this timeless, cat and mouse tale, between two men who are hellbent on setting the record straight. Levring’s production is an unrelenting affair: short, sweet and captivating – with little respite for the viewer. Within moments, when Jon and his family are aboard the horse and carriage, the tension begins, and that level of intensity never waivers from thereon. We do sadly venture into the realm of the traditional revenge plot thriller, as a film that comes devoid of any real innovation, but nonetheless it remains a wholeheartedly entertaining picture that will hold down your attention throughout.
Plus, just in case you were still deliberating as to whether this film may be worth paying to see, then here’s one final piece of valuable information: Eric Cantona is involved, and he’s playing a cowboy. We’ll just leave that there for you to ponder over for a while.