Kristian Levring’s The Salvation is a suitably entertaining Western. For all its style, however, the film fails to imprint its own mark on the genre.
Danish settler Jon has built a life for himself in 1870s America. Tragedy strikes when his family arrive in the country, forcing on to take matters into his own hands…
The Salvation follows that familiar old Western trope of revenge. The film’s premise is simple; this is a story about pay back. Usually with this type of film, the pressure lies on the execution of the action. Although action sequences function well to accelerate the pace in The Salvation, they not not meet the cathartic need. This is in part due to the lack of character development.
The Salvation offers little in the way of three-dimensional characters. The audience is not really given much of an opportunity to get to know the film’s protagonist. The situation presented in the film’s opening is traumatising to Jon. Yet little personality is given to the character. His brother Krestan is given a little more in the way of depth. The choice to have the main female character as mute perhaps represents women’s place in this era and environment.
The subplot of the land grab offers little distraction. Its inclusion offers reasoning behind the rule of fear. However, this strand is not fleshed out sufficiently. It merely seems like a device to provide some contemporary resonance or reasoning. Perhaps if the central character had been given more depth, The Salvation would have successfully functioned solely on its revenge hinge.
The use of colour is striking in the beginning of The Salvation. The film looks every inch the Western, with a level of authenticity to the look of the Wild West outpost. Visual effects are poor, however. Mads Mikkelsen delivers a decent performance as Jon. Eva Green is a striking figure, whilst Jeffrey Dean Morgan chews scenery as the cartoonish villain.
Ultimately, The Salvation lacks the mettle of a classic revenge story. The protagonist is not enough of a victim, or a hero, for viewers to really root for him. The film plays out appropriately, but lacks significance.