Saturday, May 25, 2024

“THE PROMISED LAND”

THE STORY – In 1755, the impoverished captain Ludvig Kahlen sets out to conquer the harsh, uninhabitable Danish heath with a seemingly impossible goal: to build a colony in the name of the King. In exchange, he’ll receive a desperately desired Royal name for himself. But the sole ruler of the area, the merciless Frederik de Schinkel, arrogantly believes this land belongs to him. When De Schinkel learns that the maid Ann Barbara and her servant husband have escaped for refuge with Kahlen, the privileged and spiteful ruler swears revenge, doing everything in his power to drive the captain away. Kahlen will not be intimidated and engages in an unequal battle—risking not only his life, but also that of the family of outsiders that has formed around him.

THE CAST – Mads Mikkelsen, Amanda Collin, Simon Bennebjerg, Kristine Kujath Thorp & Gustav Lindh

THE TEAM – Nikolaj Arcel (Director/Writer) & Anders Thomas Jensen (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 127 Minutes


Since mankind was first birthed into existence, it appears so has the ambition within themselves to conquer. There are many ways to define such a process. It can be the conquering of the elements in a new environment to be molded into a desired preference. It can be more of a personal goal to seize the anxieties and insecurities of the mind and banish them in order to become a more accomplished personality. It could also very well be directed toward other people, literally towering over them to establish some sense of superiority. For “The Promised Land,” all those qualities of this method are established within this harsh tale that is compellingly told.

The setting here is 1755, and a Danish captain named Ludvig Kahlen (Mads Mikkelsen) has a goal to set out to the barren lands of the heath in order to establish a colony. He aims to prove that such a bitter landscape can indeed be tamed, a feat he hopes will erase the prejudices of his low-born status and raise him into the high society he desperately wants. Maintaining life on such a land is difficult, but he is determined to succeed. However, he runs into trouble with another lord who believes he has sole ownership of this area. Frederik de Schinkel (Simon Bennebjerg) is a ruthless and cruel baron, and his entitlement only makes him more dangerous. With Kahlen refusing to give up his own claim, so begins an assault from de Schinkel to force a surrender. The damage left in the wake of this feud is violent to a deep core.

Mikkelsen has always been a mesmerizing screen presence, and he continues to demonstrate more great work here. He presents a hardened exterior built up from years of resentment from society’s elites that forces him to often treat others with a similar curtness. Still, he allows for a tenderness to slowly reveal itself that is hidden under the mountains of his reserved nature. It’s a deceptively simple performance that Mikkelsen is able to find layers within, too. De Schinkler is nowhere near as complex as a character, but there is a devious joy that Bennebjerg revels in. The villainy is presented broadly, but he makes the most out of showcasing the purest form of evil in this man. It’s easy to hate him and wish to see his demise, and credit to the performance for establishing such credibility.

The supporting cast is full of strong performers as well, chief among them being Amanda Collin as Ann Barbara, a servant whom Kahlen takes on to work the property. She plays a woman just as battered by the unfortunate circumstances of the world, and her steely resolve is perfectly realized. Hagberg Melina plays a young girl who is part of a roaming clan of criminals and, as such, has a dark, endearing personality. She is adopted into the familial unit that Kahlen and Ann create, and it’s a sweet depiction. Kristine Kujath Thorp is saddled with the love interest role, and while she is competent in the part, there isn’t much to the material to make her have an impact.

Nikolaj Arcel does not have many titles in his filmography, but there is notably a previous collaboration with Mikkelsen for “A Royal Affair.” Much like that effort, this one is also handsomely assembled, with a particular appreciation for the stunning cinematography in how it captures the bleak landscapes. He crafts an engaging portrait of survival on multiple fronts, and as the retaliations intensify, it’s easy to be emotionally connected to the struggles on display. The script from Arcel and Anders Thomas Jensen is a tad more clunky, even though it does establish its characters with a solid foundation. The more significant issues lie as the finale approaches, and the storytelling becomes quite overbearing and histrionic. These scenes can be thrilling to witness, but they fit too cleanly within a narrative looking for easy resolutions. It starts to border on melodrama and not one that is earned. It remains a captivating watch to the end, but the power is softened by hyperbolic creativity.

Even when the film begins to lose steam towards the finale, “The Promised Land” is still wholly engrossing. At its heart, it’s a traditional tale of overcoming conflict in pursuit of a goal. The way this familiar theme is executed is one that is constantly enthralling. The story and characters may house some familiar archetypes, but they are beautifully rendered. The performances are all exceptional, and the filmmaking amplifies the setting to a level that is greatly appreciated. The film manages to take a commentary as old as time and still find ways to breathe vibrant life into such an exhibition.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The film is a captivating display of warring conflicts, highlighted by its exceptional crafts. The storytelling is very engaging, and the performances are all compelling.

THE BAD - The third act starts to indulge in histrionic melodrama that removes graceful notes in the narrative, and those choices are not as strong. Some supporting players don't have enough great material to make an impact.

THE OSCARS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>The film is a captivating display of warring conflicts, highlighted by its exceptional crafts. The storytelling is very engaging, and the performances are all compelling.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The third act starts to indulge in histrionic melodrama that removes graceful notes in the narrative, and those choices are not as strong. Some supporting players don't have enough great material to make an impact.<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b>None <br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"THE PROMISED LAND"