The Salvation – Film Review

The Salvation - Mads Mikkelsen

The year is 1870-ish and after years of forging a new life in America with his brother our hero Jon (Mads “Cheekbones” Mikkelsen) is finally able to bring his wife and son over from his native Denmark. Before they even reach their new home Jon and his family find themselves in a carriage with the wrong type of men. They soon experience the sort of journey you dread when taking the night bus alone in London. His family having been severely wronged Jon takes his revenge on their assailants and things get steadily worse. Unfortunately one of the men Jon takes revenge on is the brother of the local gang leader Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and so now it is up to Delarue and his gang (which distractingly includes Eric Cantona) to seek vengeance on Jon. Thus a vicious cycle of violence, brooding, and revenge continues.

It is clear that writer/director Kristian Levring has a love for classic westerns and wanted to make his own mark on the genrefrom a Danish point of view. Clint Eastwood minus fifty years wouldn’t look out of place in The Salvation with its gentle pace, stark landscape, and sparse dialogue and Mikkelsen is a fine substitute conveying all he needs to through a clenched jaw, narrowed eyes, and dramatic cheeks. The Salvation is precisely what a Western should be; it looks right, sounds right, and generally feels as it should do. Mikkelsen is a superb, captivating lead and Morgan gives his best villainous performance with relish and conviction. And yet…

The Salvation - Jeffrey Dean Morgan

In giving us everything we have come to expect from a Western The Salvation has forgotten to give us anything new. This is anything but the reinvention of the Western and the only Danish influence to be found is in Mikkelsen’s accent. This doesn’t make the film bad necessarily just a little boring.

What threatens to brand the film as bad or ugly (aside from an unworkable mix of practical and CGI fire) is the lacklustre use of female characters. I realise the film is set in the Old West so scope for female roles is limited but having every woman as either a mute victim or a prostitute is taking it a bit too far. The two main victims female characters are Jon’s wife Marie (Nanna Øland Fabricius) and Delarue’s love interest/brother’s widow Madelaine (Eva Green). In the short period before becoming a victim to a heinous crime Marie barely says a word because she hasn’t learnt any English yet and while Madelaine gets a lot more screen time her dialogue is nil thanks to having had her tongue cut out in a previous incident of victimisation. Eva Green is a fine actress and her eyes can do as much acting as Mikkelsen’s cheekbones but there was no need to literally mute her.

The Salvation looks great and gives you what you expect with some added Mads Mikkelsen sprinkled on top. Overall though the film is unsatisfying with nothing new to bring to its genre and a frustrating use of female characters.

The Salvation is in UK cinemas now.

Womb – Review

In Womb Eva Green and Matt Smith are childhood sweethearts who meet up again once they’re all grown up. Cue a tragic accident and suddenly Eva Green is pregnant with a clone of her former lover. The rest of the two hours are filled with weird relationships and uncomfortable moments.

Womb is similar to Never Let Me Go in that it features a scientific advancement that forms the basis of the plot while focusing on people’s relationships and heavy knitwear. It also shares Peter Wight and Lesley Manville from Another Year as Smith’s parents which is amusing if you see both films within a few days of one another.

Womb is slow, tragic and beautiful. It’s certainly not an easy watch and isn’t necessarily what you’d call enjoyable but certainly provides an interesting watch. If you aren’t squirming in your seat and debating the morality of what you’re watching then you’re not watching it right. This is not a date movie, and certainly not one to watch with your parents. Lovely directing though the dialogue could perhaps do with some work.

After the film writer/director Benedek Fliegauf, Leslie Manville and Peter Wight did a short Q&A session, which consisted of Mike Leigh comparisons and the question of why it had to end the way it did. Fliegauf described the film as a fairy tale rather than a sci-fi, the different apprently being an emphasis on emotions rather than the dynamics of the fictional science.

In conclusion Womb is a good film, just not one I’d actually like to recommend to someone. Luckily the UK distribution is not yet sorted so you’ll have to wait to see Matt Smith run naked into the sea.