The Salvation Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Mikael Persbrandt
  • Director: Kristian Levring
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: August 4, 2015
  • Run Time: 92 minutes



            The Salvation has the traditional plot of an American western, from setting to storyline, except that it was made with the sensibility and tone of its Danish filmmakers. There is a weightiness to the revenge narrative that feels distinctly Scandinavian, despite the classic Wild West setting, allowing for unrelenting bleak content to overpower some of the crowd-pleasing spectacle. Nothing about the actual story may be altogether original, but the approach is a wonderful blend of distinct cultural cinemas.


            Wasting no time to immerse the audience in the violent and lawless world of the American west in the 1870s, The Salvation opens with the film’s most horrific act of barbarism. A former soldier turned peaceful American settler named Jon Jensen (Mads Mikkelson) has waited seven years to bring his wife and child over from Denmark, but their happy reunion is short-lived when forced to share a carriage with a recently released outlaw. We know what must happen in order for the revenge narrative to move forward, but the tense encounter is emotionally trying to endure.


            Even when those who wronged Jensen and his family have been punished, the cycle of violence and vengeance continues. It turns out that the offending party was brother to a powerful gang leader (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who happens to control the small town nearest Jensen’s frontier home. Stopping at nothing to find his brother’s killer, this ruthless villain begins terrorizing the town until they cooperate with his manhunt. Despite wanting nothing more than escaping his grief by traveling further west, Jensen is forced into an uneven battle for justice against this gang of killers.   


            Directed by Danish filmmaker Kristian Levring (Fear Me Not) with an unrelenting screenplay co-written by hardworking scribe, Anders Thomas Jensen (Brothers, In a Better World, The Duchess), The Salvation is a co-financed international production shot in South Africa. The film is fittingly set in North America, but the narrative often carries the pacing and sensibility of a European film. This is most apparent in the bleak nature of the screenplay, offering little relief from the injustice until the third act of the film. This makes the first hour of the 92-minute film somewhat of an endurance test, and not just because of Jensen’s misfortune.


            Adding yet another layer to the violence and revenge, Eva Green also has a supporting role as a mute victim of Native American attacks. Paired with the gang of outlaws, she seems to be a part of their violent world, but her inability to speak makes it unclear where her real loyalties lie. Although the role has no dialogue and minimal screen time, Green is as captivating as she has ever been. Mikkelson also proves himself capable of adapting, convincingly fitting into the western setting as easily as he has embodied any number of roles (most recently playing the iconic cannibal serial killer in NBC’s “Hannibal” series).


            There is nothing altogether groundbreaking about The Salvation, but it is a solid entry into the western genre that fans will likely enjoy. I have always liked these movies, and my appreciation of the cast and Danish filmmaking only increased the likeliness of my satisfaction. The Blu-ray release of the film offers a high definition presentation of the film’s visual spectacle and polished cinematography, as well as a few extras. These special features include interviews with select cast/crew, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and the film’s trailer.  


    Entertainment Value: 9/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 8.5/10

    Historical Significance:  7/10

    Special Features: 6.5/10

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