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Film / The Salvation

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The Salvation is a 2014 Western film directed by Kristian Levring, starring Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green. It is at once a send-up of classic Western tropes and a fresh take on them. As such, it is naturally troperiffic. And like many Westerns, this is a movie with a serious body count.

Jon (Mikkelsen) is a Danish soldier who fled to The Wild West with his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), in the wake of a German-Danish war. Having built a farm for himself, he has his wife and young son migrate over seven years later and all looks suspiciously tranquil. Hopping a stagecoach to their farm, Jon is helpless to watch as the thugs they share it with molest his wife while holding his son at knifepoint. Thrown out of the carriage, Jon soon catches up to find they've killed the drivers and his son, then raped and killed his wife; Jon brutally guns down the men in retaliation.

In the nearby town, local thug Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) visits the bodies of the thugs, one of which is his own brother. Seeing a genuine act of revenge as an attack on his gang that left his sister-in-law (Green) widowed, he starts up a Cycle of Revenge to "avenge" his brother's murder, using his protection racket to keep the local town under his thumb. Of course, it's not too long before Jon has to ride back into that very same town...


  • Actor Allusion: Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green have worked together before. In an included interview on the DVD, Green admits while working on the earlier film, her first major English-language film, she was terrified of Mikkelsen as the villain.
  • Anyone Can Die: Yeah, it's one of those Westerns. By the end, Jon and Madelaine are the only main characters who haven't fled or died, which only really leaves the Sheriff's unnamed team as non-background characters left.
  • Ax-Crazy: Delarue's brother kicks off the plot by being so psychotic that he murders a man's family just for being in the same coach as him. Delarue himself is so bloody-minded that his oil tycoon bosses warn him that he's being way too brazen in his methods.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The most important people to Jon (his wife, son, and later his brother) are dead. The only consolations to him are that he has killed all the men responsible, and (probably) found an equally broken companion.
  • Boom, Headshot!: There are about half a dozen deaths like this, delivered by both the hero and villain.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Jon is just minding his business when two degenerate criminals kill his family. After exacting his revenge, he prepares to leave town and never look back. However, one of the killed goons is the brother of notorious gang leader Delarue. Things just get messier from there.
  • Chained to a Bed: Madeleine is kept tied to one so the gang can rape her before she's killed, per Delarue's orders. Thankfully, Jon kills the men who guarded Madeleine and she's freed (helping to finish some off) before any can do it.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Jon is advised to hide his cash in his boots by the Mayor, who promptly steals the boots back when Delarue gets hold of him. This helps Jon figure out that the Mayor is not only a money-grubbing coward, but leads to him learning he's giving the land he buys straight over to Delarue.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • The Latino couple who were kicked off of the coach show up in town and identify Jon.
    • The shopkeeper becomes relevant in the climax, when he joins Jon's rampage.
    • The widowed housewife helps Jon when he emerges from the wilderness.
  • Combat Pragmatist/The Strategist: Jon. Unlike many Western-style heroes, Jon doesn't go for direct confrontations. After finding the corpse of his murdered son, he doesn't charge towards the carriage where his killers are raping his wife. He walks up quietly and shoots out the carriage's remaining gas-light. This spooks the horses into galloping off, robbing the bandits of cover and since he's low to the ground their panicked shots whirr over him. He then guns them down with eerie precision. Likewise, his attack on Delarue's compound employs tactical advantage, misdirection and property destruction instead of a full on assault.
  • Corrupt Politician: Mayor and undertaker Keane. He is secretly working with Delarue, helping him driving people off of their land.
  • Cute Mute: Madeleine, played by Eva Green. That scar on her lips doesn't make her any less cute.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Central to the plot. Jon kills Delarue's brother and his henchman for murdering his son and raping and murdering his wife. Delarue murders a group of townspeople over Jon's actions and plans to kill Jon. The shopkeeper and Madeleine both join Jon in getting vengeance on Delarue and his gang.
  • The Determinator: Characters take a hell of a lot of punishment and still get back up. Special props to Jon, who manages to walk back to civilization after being hung to die from exposure, while barefoot.
  • Dirty Coward: The Sheriff kowtows to pretty much everything Delarue wants.
  • Disposable Woman: Jon's wife exists in the film to be murdered and kick off the plot.
  • Double Tap: After shooting people in the head, Delarue shoots them once more in the heart for good measure. Jon empties the rifle's magazine in the body of his wife's murderer.
  • The Drifter: Jon, after being a Retired Gunfighter.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Delarue's only human quality is his love for his brother.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Quite frequent, with gunshots making small red stains on clothing and heads for the most part. Made all the more shocking, however, when it's subverted when people use knives.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Delarue is really just the hatchetman for oil tycoons trying to buy up the town.
  • The Gunfighter Wannabe: The young shopkeeper wants revenge and claims that he can shoot well, but he doesn't know much about fighting.
  • The Gunslinger: Delarue is a classic villainous example. Jon and his brother are former soldiers, so they have all the skills of gunslingers while trying to be simple hunters.
  • Jump Scare: The thug who puts his eye to the bulletholes to see if he killed Jon, only to scream and lunge backwards when a heavy thud shows a bloodied knife is suddenly through the boards.
  • Kick the Dog: The majority of the cast does this, save for Jon and the Sheriff. No puppy is unkicked.
  • MacGuffin: The oil is the entire reason the Delarue brothers are in town and presumably how the younger brother gets out of jail early and manages to sexually assault Jon's wife. By the end, nobody's left but the honest sheriff and the townspeople who are apparently oblivious to its worth.
  • Mayor Pain: The town mayor is in league with Delarue, helping him squash the town so that Delarue's bosses can buy it up and turn it into an oil field.
  • Meaningful Name: The town cripple's name is Joe Noleg, for obvious reasons.
  • Only in It for the Money: Delarue's motive is ultimately to drive off all the townspeople and sell the land to an oil company. Not that he doesn't enjoy hurting people in the process.
  • Outlaw: Delarue's gang. A somewhat interesting point is that they are not shown robbing anyone; instead, they only intimidate people to squeeze protection money out of them.
  • Preacher Man: Sheriff Mallick is a very pragmatic man of God, willingly sacrificing people to Delarue if it means protecting the rest of the community.
  • Pretty Little Head Shots: All the Boom Head Shot deaths.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Peter is locked up with a Deputy he previously beat up really badly (breaking his jaw, giving him a swollen eye). Peter repeatedly taunts the Marshal until the poor guy loses his cool and gets closer, which is exactly what he is waiting for.
  • Rape and Revenge: Basically the entirety of Princess's arc is dedicated to waiting for the right moment to enact her revenge. However, she is a bit more pragmatic, choosing to run away with the money while Delarue is absent instead of trying to kill him. She's tracked down by his men and ordered killed (after they rape her). Once she's freed when Jon shoots her guards, she joins in his rampage, shooting Delarue before he's finished off.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Both of the Delarue brothers. You know, in case we forgot they were evil.
  • Retired Gunfighter: Jon and his brother are both former Danish soldiers who now want to live a quiet life in America.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: First, Jon's wife and child. Later, Mrs. Borowski, Mr. Whisler and Joe Noleg. Mallick thinks Jon is one too, but he's quickly proven wrong.
  • Sex Slave: Madelaine is this to the Delarue brothers.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Jon tries to escape his past and build a farm to settle down. By the end he's lost the deed to his farm, his entire family is dead, and while he got his vengeance it hasn't gave him his life back. All he really can do is simply ride off West with Madelaine.
  • The Sheriff: Sheriff Mallick, who is also the Preacher Man. He's useless for standing up to Delarue, but very good about getting in the way of our protagonists.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Delarue. The war is over, but he still treats civilians like the Indians he fought.
  • The Speechless: Cute Mute Madelaine. She was subject to horrific torture first by Indian raiders who cut her tongue out, and then Delarue and his brother.
  • The Stoic: Most of the main cast with the exception of Delarue are some variant of this trope. Most of Mikkelsen's acting hinges on facial expressions and microexpressions that do the heavy lifting usually done by words.
  • The Western: Obviously.
  • Tranquil Fury: Jon, near the beginning, as he guns down the men who killed his family.
  • Undertaker: The town's mayor is an undertaker by trade. Given the grim condition of the town, he's the only one making money.
  • Villain Ball: The elder Delarue brother seemingly has this glued to his hand. After finally capturing Jon, instead of executing him or crippling him, Delarue strings him up in the center of a dying town to die of exposure. Surely there is no way this can backfire. He also seems to indulge in purely evil acts For the Evulz, so this might explain his Genre Blindness.
  • What a Drag: This happens to Peter, and Jon gets to see it too.
  • Your Mom: The insult Peter uses to push the Marshal he beat up beyond the Rage Breaking Point.
    Peter: I'm sure your whore mother sounded like a mule when you were conceived.