The Promised Land | Review by: Benjamin Garrett
The Promised Land is a sprawling nordic western, fuelled by an escalating dispute over barren farmland. Gorgeously shot, impeccably acted and brilliantly tense, this stunning period piece is worthy of your time.
The film follows Ludvig Kahlen - a war captain (Mads Mikkelsen) who sets out to cultivate an untameable wasteland where it’s seemingly impossible to grow crops. His goal is to start a colony in the name of the King, which will grant him the noble title he seeks. I realize on paper, that doesn’t sound all that thrilling, but know there’s more to this film than a man attempting to yield crops. It’s a story of perseverance, survival and pride, with a touch of melodrama, plus a few shocking bursts of violence.
Mads Mikkelsen is unsurprisingly excellent once again. His character is relatively subdued and quiet, but Mads is always able to convey so much while saying so little. He makes sure you feel every moment of devastation, rage and pride through his stoic performance. Simon Bennebjerg stars as the villainous Frederick De Schinkel, and oh boy, does he ever eat this role up. You’ll love to hate this character, and Bennebjerg is clearly having a blast playing such an evil human being.
Much of the movie takes place across barren, uncultivated fields known as moorlands. Naturally, there’s a lot of empty space, but cinematographer Rasmus Vidabæk captures its beauty magnificently. The film also creates a stark visual contrast between the harsh terrains Kahlen is trying to tame, and the lavish highborn castle De Schinkel sits comfortably in. Dan Romer’s diverse score (which is just as beautiful as the striking visuals) deftly blurs the line between the western genre and 17th century period piece.
The Promised Land captures perseverance through desperation, with an epic war story told on an intimate scale. Mads Mikkelsen gives another knockout performance, in a film that’s both visually and narratively engrossing. Don’t miss this one, when it opens in select theatres Friday, February 9th.