The Salvation review

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GamesRadar+ Verdict

Not the deepest western you’ll ever see, but it sure knows how to pack a punch (and fire off a round). Fans of the genre will get their kicks.

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The western is alive and well (-referenced) in Kristian Levring’s violent horse opera, one of the most exciting cowboy movies to clip-clop onto screens in a while. Stylish, sexy, with a quick-draw narrative, it’s set in 1864 in the small town of Black Creek: a typically lawless frontier settlement where violence and death are commonplace.

Swapping cannibals for cowboys, Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen plays taciturn Jon, a Danish immigrant and ex-soldier whose wife and son are accosted and murdered in a moment of shocking brutality. Jon takes swift revenge on the culprits, only to discover the main perpetrator was the brother of Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), an even more psychopathic sharp-shooter who naturally wants to avenge his sibling’s death. The cowardly sheriff (Douglas Henshall) and mayor (Jonathan Pryce) soon give Jon up, leaving him with only his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) as an ally.

Adding intrigue is Eva Green, who plays Madelaine, the widow of the man Jon killed – left mute after Native Americans cut her tongue out. Green is marvellous – silent but deadly, with those alluring feline eyes put to good use. Mikkelsen matches her in presence, while Morgan channels the same edginess he displayed in Watchmen.

But it’s Levring’s devotion to the western that really captivates. With South Africa doubling effectively for striking US vistas, the Danish director has packed the production with numerous nods to classic westerns (with shots emulating moments from all the masters, from John Ford to Sergio Leone). Despite this, The Salvation never feels derivative: Levring has woven his references into a fresh-feeling ten-gallon tapestry.

More info

Theatrical release17 April 2015
DirectorKristian Levring
Starring Mads"Mikkelsen","Jeffrey Dean Morgan","Eva Green","Jonathan Pryce"
Available platformsMovie
Freelance writer

James Mottram is a freelance film journalist, author of books that dive deep into films like Die Hard and Tenet, and a regular guest on the Total Film podcast. You'll find his writings on GamesRadar+ and Total Film, and in newspapers and magazines from across the world like The Times, The Independent, The i, Metro, The National, Marie Claire, and MindFood.