Historical films have that kind of aura around them that makes them more film-like than many others. There is something extraordinary about having the chance to go back in time and explore how things were before we were born. In The Promised Land, director Nikolaj Arcel goes back to the late 18th century and tells us the story of a man with ambition and how that ambition changed the shape of Denmark forever by conquering nature with resilience and ingenuity.
The Promised Land Movie Review: Script Analysis
The Promised Land marks the return of Nikolaj Arcel to the big screen after the failure that was The Dark Tower film adaptation, which tainted the reputation of the director after just having reached the peak of his career with A Royal Affair, one of the best historical fiction films in recent memory. The Promised Land brings back Arcel together with Mads Mikkelsen, one of the main characters in A Royal Affair, making this an apparent attempt from the director to rebuild his reputation as a filmmaker, and he is pretty successful.
The film opens up with the introduction of our main character, Kahlen, played by Mikkelsen, and from there, we are faced with an exploration of such a character and the environment he lives in, along with a couple of creative licenses that make the story more compelling and exciting. It is clear that, at times, Arcel is pulling from very overused tropes, but they are tropes for a reason, and they help Arcel tell the story he wants to tell.
We explore the life of the peasants during this period, and things are pretty rough, life hurts, and at times, there doesn’t seem to be an apparent reason to keep on living, but humanity is stubborn, and this is one of our most excellent qualities as well as one of our most significant flaws. The character of Kahlen ends up suffering from this part of human nature, and the movie knows how to pace the good with the bad, making the film a real rollercoaster regarding its plot developments.
However, The Promised Land is not flawless because as the movie reaches its third act, the film falls apart a bit; there is a sort of epilogue that doesn’t really feel very satisfactory and glosses over many important parts, leaving the ending of the film feeling rushed and somehow incomplete. If the movie didn’t know how to reach the end, or they were told it couldn’t be long enough to show all the connective tissue, it leaves a bad taste when the credits roll.
The Promised Land Movie Review: Star Performance
Mads Mikkelsen is one of the best Danish actors working out there; he is actually one of the best actors, period. Mikkelsen knows how to play the silent type, and thanks to his particular face, he can show a wide range of emotions, making Kahlen’s journey feel natural and as important as what he is doing for his country. Mikkelsen is always a standout, and having him on board a film makes that film totally worth watching just for his inclusion.
The other big highlight of the movie when it comes to performances is Amanda Collin, who plays the role of Ann Barbara, a woman who has suffered enough in life and sees Kahlen’s enterprise as a new opportunity. Collin is best known for her role in Raised By Wolves, where she simply killed it in the role of Mother, an android looking to raise kids. Collin is a talent; having her alongside Mikkelsen feels like a match made in heaven.
What’s Good: Having another collaboration between Arcel and Mikkelsen feels right after what they did in A Royal Affair a decade ago.
What’s Bad: The Promised Land loses some steam towards the end and comes to a rushed resolution.
Loo Break: The Promised Land is engaging, so you will want to see what happens next in the story.
Watch or Not?: Yes, this is a must-watch film, especially if you are a fan of history or Mads Mikkelsen’s work as an actor.
Language: English (with subtitles).
Available On: Theatrical release
Runtime: 127 Minutes.