Like the superb psychodrama Fear Me Not (08) before it, Danish director Kristian Levring’s The Salvation digs deep into the devastating destruction of a family. In the Wild West of 1870s America, a former Danish soldier, Jon (Mads Mikkelsen), is reunited with his wife and son after seven years—but before they can even make it home, the child is murdered by two rogues who board their stagecoach, and his mother is raped and killed shortly thereafter.
Jon promptly takes out the perpetrators, ferociously unloading all of his bullets into one of them, but it turns out he was the brother of the town despot Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, sufficiently villainous), who then sets out to even the score. The townspeople, frightened to death of the cold-blooded Delarue, are called upon to deliver Jon alive—a dire situation because this leaves Jon with only one ally: his ever-faithful brother (the commanding Swede Mikael Persbrandt; Mikkelsen + Persbrandt = dream casting). That is at least until Delarue’s mightily mistreated captive (Eva Green, also a welcome presence, even mute) recognizes Jon as a potential savior.
Slick, hyperstylized, and lushly scored— a far cry from Levring and co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen’s Dogme days—The Salvation is, under its glossy Western veneer, a simple, old-fashioned revenge thriller. And with Mikkelsen to root for, that revenge tastes that much sweeter.