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Mikkelsen gets mad in The Salvation

With his piercing eyes and striking features, the actor Mads Mikkelsen certainly brings presence to his roles, whether as the accused schoolteacher in Thomas Vinterberg’s Oscarnominated The Hunt (2012), his current small-screen role on NBC’s ratings hit “Hannibal” (in which he plays the notorious Dr. Lecter), and here as Jon, the hero of director Kristian Levring’s tough Western The Salvation.

No sooner has Jon welcomed his wife and son to the new country than they are brutalized and murdered by a pair of thugs. Jon exacts immediate retribution, unaware that one of the dastards was the brother of Delarue (a grizzled and growling Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a sadistic land baron and district enforcer whose idea of justice might be described as “Old Testament extreme.”

As the title indicates, Biblical symbolism abounds in The Salvation, but it’s very clear from the outset that Jon is on the side of moral right. Given what he endures throughout the story, Jon is truly the avenging angel – and Mikkelsen’s hard bitten performance is just right for these gutsy, surreal circumstances.

The film, which also boasts a blunt irony (again appropriate), is very much in the fashion of the spaghetti Western in Levring and Anders Thomas Jensen’s screenplay, with Jens Schlosser providing surreal, almost dreamlike, cinematography, augmented by CGI effects. The landscape and characters who inhabit it are more rooted in the “reel” West than the real West.

Eva Green, who co-starred with Mikkelsen in Daniel Craig’s James Bond debut Casino Royale (2006), plays the woman caught between Delarue and Jon, Mikael Persbrandt plays Jon’s stalwart but ill-fated brother, Douglas Henshall the hapless town marshal and minister (no symbolism there!), and the always-welcome Jonathan Pryce titters and dodders as the town’s increasingly nervous mayor and increasingly busy mortician. !

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