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  Salvation, The An Eye For An Eye
Year: 2014
Director: Kristian Levring
Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eric Cantona, Mikael Persbrandt, Douglas Henshall, Michael-Raymond James, Jonathan Pryce, Alexander Arnold, Nanna Øland Fabricius, Toke Lars Bjarke, Sean Cameron Michael, Carel Nel, Kobus Swanepool
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: 1871 in the American West, and Jon Jensen (Mads Mikkelsen) has been there for seven years, having left Denmark and his young family behind to establish a life for them away from his recently war-torn homeland. His brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) followed him across the Atlantic, and they both now live near a small town in the desert, but Jensen has good reason to be more optimistic now that he has been able to invite his wife Marie (Nanna Øland Fabricius) and their ten-year-old son over from Europe where they can at last begin their days as a proper family unit in the land of opportunity. But tragedy is about to strike, heralded by the nice immigrant couple in the stagecoach being removed by two sinister gentlemen…

Only they’re really no gentlemen at all in one of those Westerns created by a continent of the genre’s biggest fans outside of the United States, and even then maybe more so come the twenty-first century, which was Europe. Forty to fifty years before this the Western was booming there, to the extent that productions from there became more voguish than the ones from the original source, but the fashion had waned by the time The Salvation was released. However, that did not mean they had ceased production entirely, and the stream of Westerns on the other side of the Pond to where you might expect may have been reduced to a trickle compared to the previous torrent, but they were assuredly still being created.

Although set in a desert location, this wasn’t even filmed in the States, as South Africa stood in for it with some well-chosen landscapes to emphasise the sheer bleakness of the country circa the eighteen-hundreds. Director Kristian Levring had a point to all this, which was the nation was built on violence, and as there was a strong immigrant element to the population, it was as if all the world’s most brutal characters had chosen that place to settle, so by extension any kind of civilisation was established on bloodshed. Yet while he framed this in the style of a revenge thriller, and did not skimp on either the suspense or the violence, it was instigated by horrendous acts that largely remained offscreen.

Those occurred in the opening quarter of an hour where the two ne’erdowells threw Jensen off the stagecoach so they could rape Marie, and by the time he has caught up with them they have committed even worse crimes, murdering both his young son and his wife. But catch up with them he does, and doles out his own punishment on the spot, shooting the two men dead in the outskirts of a forest, then wracked with sorrow takes the bodies of his family back to his house to bury them. As you can imagine, this is not the end of the story, as the outlaws had associates, and the nearby town which is in their thrall bear the brunt of the leader Henry Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) since he wants them to tell him who killed them both – one his brother, which makes him very angry indeed.

Though in Morgan’s performance, that anger was exhibited in deeds, not words, quietly demanding that the townsfolk put forward two sacrifices for execution unless they can identify Jensen as the killer. The two die, as does another man out of sheer spite, and their protection money is put up in price, which should really render the locals as poor victims, but Levring was not so forgiving as they were more portrayed as snivelling weasels keen to save their own skins and putting up with Delarue and his men lest someone worse come along. Soon Jensen is captured, and the few who are willing to stand up to the intimidation prove themselves worthy of our admiration as a plan is hastily concocted. Also in the cast, second-billed, was a mute Eva Green, a supporting role but vital to show the effects of this male-led savagery on the women – she has had her tongue cut out by Indians, and when the Delarue’s brother is declared dead Delarue wastes no time in raping her to claim her as his own. So this was an unpleasant watch, yet so clear in its depiction of what was wrong with this sick society – abuse of women and children, the gun as an answer to everything – that the setpiece it closed with was both obvious and attention-grabbing. Music by Kasper Winding.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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