Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten. or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Eva Green.
The Salvation (2014)
Directed by Kristian Levring
Written by Anders Thomas Jensen and Kristian Levring
Like Bogart’s noirs, Garland’s musicals, and Hepburn’s romances, the Duke’s westerns were the movies of my childhood. Visually, Levring’s The Salvation falls right into that Western tradition. Mads Mikkelsen is the stoic Jon, able to say in a look what other cowboys have to wisecrack. He’s a guy who keeps to himself, non-threatening if left alone yet not someone to mess with (though that’s exactly what Michael Raymond-James and Sean Cameron Michael do).
In the beginning, at least, we get to see him and his brother, Peter (cool-as-ice scene stealer, Mikael Persbrandt) allow themselves a moment to give into happiness. Without being told much, you know that there’s is a happiness hard won. If all goes according to plan, one train’s arrival will make their seven years hard work all worth it.
Unlike the leads of Westerns I’ve watched in the past, Jon and Peter are very obviously immigrants, soldiers from the Danish war who have moved West to pave the way for family members back in Europe. The immigrant story is quintessential America yet leading men in Westerns so rarely reflect this, toted as All-American, born and bred, and never having an accent or speaking another language. John Wayne is the quintessential symbol of this brand of American heroism but Mikkelsen more than holds his own, in a rendition of the West that feels much more dangerous than Wayne’s ever did.
Similarly, in Wayne’s movies there’s usually a Dean Martin or George ‘Gabby’ Hayes, a more comedic and head strong opposite to make Wayne look more secure in comparison. Comic relief is hard to come by in The Salvation and everyone needs to be on the ball from the start—meaning no singing and no alcohol. Having the same family grit is how Jon and Peter have survived.
John Wayne always saved the day in his pictures. Innocent people didn’t get hurt, they never died, and any exceptions were promptly sought retribution for. Reunited with his wife and son, Jon has reserved a spot for them to travel on the stagecoach. Peter plans to spend the night in town. A suspicious, last minute passenger change and less than a day is all it takes to bring Jon’s dreams crashing down.
The unimaginable helplessness, of there being absolutely nothing Jon could’ve done differently to save the people he loved—there’s no comfort in that. No believing there couldn’t have been another way things went down. Jon had choices. He could’ve gotten out with his son and deliberately sacrificed his wife. He could’ve shot the guys first instead of trying to seek a way where everyone came out alive. In not compromising his desire to save both, he loses both. Jon pays for copying the John Wayne approach to battle, fighting fair when outnumbered and expecting a miraculous save. No one could condemn him for it, but he does condemn himself, and the rest of the film goes the way of revenge/Quentin Tarantino movies before it.
One of his family’s attackers turns out to have been the brother of local town menace, Henry Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). The body count rises and along the way we meet Henry’s sister-in-law, the mute widow, Madelaine (Green). Madelaine’s treated like crap. While she does get her comeuppance, there’s not enough time given to provide her a deeper personality, outside of figuring out her next, of limited, moves. She has no friends, so no one to try and communicate with. I’m not really sure why she was written as mute, other than to extend her always treated like crap history. Eva Green exudes her usual awesomeness, but Jon’s wife, Marie (Nanna Øland Fabricius), had more of a part in shorter time.
Verdict: Not Sure
The final, one-man showdown possibly goes one kill too many but is reminiscent of every good Western and revenge film before it. The Salvation gets the roughness down but never quite tops its opening.
Kieran Fisher returns next week with a new actor and cop drama that contains flooding and a serial killer.