Two Bond villains and Eva Green walk into a western, and they emerge with a rugged — if far from revolutionary — old-school horse-opera throwback.
Having long since ditched the Dogme 95 precepts that guided his breakout 2000 feature, The King Is Alive, Danish director Kristian Levring employs a bounty of CG-enhanced Sergio Leone–isms for The Salvation, the story of a Danish soldier-turned-settler named Jon (Casino Royale‘s Mads Mikkelsen) who’s reunited with his wife and child in 1871 America, only to have them raped and murdered.
Jon exacts bloody revenge for this crime, which in turn makes him the target of a bandit leader (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in league with a mayor (Tomorrow Never Dies‘ Jonathan Pryce) and in love with a woman (Green) whose tongue was cut out by her former Native American captors.
The corrupting toll of warfare is the undercurrent upon which Levring’s tale coasts, with the filmmaker’s self-consciously expressionistic aesthetics lending the material a disquieting homage-via-foreign-sensibilities atmosphere.
Emphasizing action over the spoken word, The Salvation doesn’t break new ground, yet its murderous twists of fate are consistently compelling. And in a peripheral role that boasts no dialogue but myriad menacing glares, Green reconfirms that she has the most erotically ferocious eyes in cinema.