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‘The Promised Land’: Mads Mikkelsen and the epic of a classless hero

The Danish actor once again demonstrates his enormous magnetism and talent in a period drama with Western overtones about the conquest of the inhospitable Jutland

Mads Mikkelsen
Mads Mikkelsen in 'The Promised Land.'
Elsa Fernández-Santos

At this point, Mads Mikkelsen has walked without a squeak the path that separates the dispossession of the Dogme 95 movement from its nemesis, the Hollywood system in blockbusters like Casino Royale or the latest Indiana Jones. Thomas Vinterberg’s favorite actor (Celebration, The Hunt, Another Round) is one of those rare performers who can resist almost nothing. It works in the shoes of villains who cry blood but, above all, in that of real men subjected to complex situations, to whom this immense actor is capable of giving a mystery and humanity available to few. With a past as an acrobat and dancer that includes a stop at the legendary New York school of Martha Graham, the now gray-haired Mikkelsen is always a powerful attraction due to his imposing presence and a dramatic talent that works like a cramp, full of emotion and nuances.

That electric shock drives his latest film, The Promised Land, a Nordic epic by Nikolaj Arcel in which Mikkelsen embroiders a character worthy of the classic Western.

The original title of The Promised Land is The Bastard. Its central character is a veteran army captain, son of a nobleman and a maid, who, with his knowledge as a surveyor, embarks on a solitary adventure: the conquest of the moors of the Jutland peninsula. We are at the dawn of the 18th century, and the secret of their mission is some bags with which to reconvert the arid Nordic lands into pasture for a tuber that was beginning its European expansion. In his quest, this obstinate and laconic soldier will come across an all-powerful and cruel landowner ready to ruin his life.

Mads Mikkelsen in 'The Promised Land.'
Mads Mikkelsen in 'The Promised Land.'

The Promised Land overcomes all kinds of intrigues, including those of the ministers of the Crown, to enter a world of bandits and sadistic and corrupt aristocrats, where three female characters, including a wild girl, They will steal the heart of a cold and pragmatic man who rejects his feelings.

Nikolaj Arcel takes advantage of a good script with very reliable direction, at the service of the characters, the adventure and the impressive Danish landscapes. The beauty of these views, with the blue skies over the incredible toasted colors of the heather of a virgin and immense land, blend with the tanned skin of a man who will face conflicts of class and race to emerge with the unexpected epic of declassed heroes.

'The Promised Land'

Director: Nikolaj Arcel.

Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Amanda Collin, Simon Bennebjerg, Melina Hagberg.

Genre: Drama, Denmark, 2023.

Runtime: 127 minutes.

U.S. release date: February 2, 2024.

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