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The Salvation, film review: Danish-made western shot in South Africa is full of blood

(15) Kristian Levring, 93 mins Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eric Cantona, Mikael Persbrandt

Geoffrey Macnab
Thursday 16 April 2015 22:04 BST
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‘The Salvation’ with Jeffrey Dean Morgan
‘The Salvation’ with Jeffrey Dean Morgan (PR)

It's the detail – the fly on the dead man's face and all those close-ups of characters' stirruped boots clanking on wooden floors – that makes The Salvation so enjoyable. This is an exercise in pastiche – a Danish-made western shot in South Africa, with the Highveld standing in for Monument Valley.

Director Kristian Levring has clearly watched plenty of John Ford and Sergio Leone films, and quite a few of Sam Peckinpah's slow-motion gorefests too. His approach to the western genre is very full-blooded, and this is a film very full of blood.

As the Danish settler hero Jon, the estimable Mads Mikkelsen suffers a lot of pain and bereavement himself and inflicts even more of it on his enemies. One of the co-stars, in a role as the Corsican, that mainly calls for him to glower menacingly, is Eric Cantona, but his shooting skills turn out to be less reliable than in his Old Trafford days.

Playing the fussy, bearded, pencil-thin town mayor and undertaker, Jonathan Pryce looks as if he is on leave from a Lucky Luke cartoon. As the villainous Delarue, Jeffrey Dean Morgan seems like a cross between Franco Nero in Django and Jack Palance in Shane.

Eva Green brings a Joan Crawford-like sultriness to her role as Princess. She doesn't have a word of dialogue (the "Indinas" ripped out her tongue when she was a child) but she scowls and smoulders, managing to dominate the screen whenever she is on it.

Everything, from how characters are framed through doorways to the way they spit, the cut of their clothes, the wide-screen close-ups and all the major plot points, feels second-hand.

That doesn't weaken the film in the slightest. Nor, against the odds, does The Salvation ever lapse into camp.

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