The history of western movies is almost as interesting as the era they chronicle, that brief period between the end of the Civil War and the dawn of the modern age, 1865 to 1900. The Salvation reminds us what we loved about the genre.

Mads Mikkelsen’s Jon is the perfect stranger with a secret heart of darkness.  It’s an illusion, this peaceful life with his loving wife and child. It can’t last. In this tale of corruption and revenge in the old west, the illusion is on a collision course with fate, and fate rides a fast horse.  Jon’s is about to cross paths with a malicious force which will rip this pretence of little house on the prairie from him. In The Salvation, it will first take the form of frontier sociopath low-life villains tossing him at gunpoint out of a westward wagon, raping and killing his wife and killing his child.

His life is now on its true path. The former Danish soldier immigrant, come to a new life in America, has found his American Dream – a death struggle with evil.

This is but a mere brief episode of vengeance. There is a more profound fate waiting in ambush, a true and worthy villain, an abstract one, the corruption and avarice inspired by a new world of infinite promise.  Then there is the human villain. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a formidable desperado.  He and his rogues are the henchmen of a larger ambition than the petty drives of the red-sashed cowboys that terrorised Tombstone, serving a force that would power the engines of the emerging modern world.  Eva Green is a beautiful and mysterious presence.

The majestic landscape is the backdrop of every western, as it is here. No wonder it drew people by the millions, in spite of the death and violence. The town itself is a burnt-out blight on this landscape, an appropriate dwelling place for the hapless and cowardly inhabitance. The salt of the earth, indeed.

There’s a suggestion of civilization in the balance. Corruption existed and it exists still and something overcame it and overcomes it to this day.  We are civilized. We live by the grace of a rule of law that works to an extent that you and I haven’t earned. Who do we credit for this?

For ninety minutes or so it’s the mysterious stranger with a secret heart of darkness. Hi Yo Silver and away.

Director: Kristian Levring
Writers: Anders Thomas Jensen, Kristian Levring
Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Eric Cantona
Runtime: 92 mins
Country: Denmark, UK, South Africa, Sweden, Belgium

Film Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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