Just when you thought no one could come up with a fresh take on the Western, the Danes arrive with this astonishingly earthy and inventive film, shot in South Africa no less. Director Kristian Levring uses all of the usual elements without ever resorting to cliches, which makes the film strikingly involving. Not only are the characters people we can identify with, but their moral dilemmas are strikingly provocative. Especially as the violence escalates.
The story opens in 1871, as Danish immigrant Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) welcomes his wife (Nanna Oland Fabricius) and young son to the American prairie where he has worked for seven years. But on the way home from the station, they are ambushed by outlaws. After a desperate struggle, Jon manages to kill them, but this puts him on the wrong side of the local boss Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who enforces cooperation from the town's mayor-undertaker (Jonathan Pryce) and sheriff-priest (Douglas Hensall). So aside from his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), Jon has nowhere to turn. His only hope of justice is to deliver it himself.
Adding an intriguing layer is the fact that Jon and Peter are veterans of Denmark's civil war, just as the locals are survivors of America's. So everyone has war in their blood. The Danish brothers have vowed to turn their backs on violence and build a lawful society, so the flurry of clashes, kidnappings and killings with Delarue's goons (including Eric Cantona) are tinged with regretfulness. And the script never lets the audience off lightly: in the Wild West, no one is safe. Civilisation has only begun to arrive in this isolated place, but the discovery of oil has replaced old world values with pure, unfiltered greed. Yes, there's a lot more going on here than the usual swaggering Western machismo. And the casting has as much to do with that as the script.
Continue reading: The Salvation Review
In the 1870s, Danish settlers travelled to the US following a brutal war with Germany. One of these people was Jon (Mads Mikkelsen), who travels to America to start a new life with his family. But, having travelled from the frying pan to the fire, Jon's world is ready to be rocked to its very core. When his family is murdered, Jon puts his military training to use, and hunts down and deals out western justice to his families killers. The problem is, one of the men his kills was the brother of a feared outlaw, who proceeds to terrorise a local town as revenge. Jon will be called upon to end the feud he started - but with nothing left, why should he?
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