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Mikkelsen shines in The Promised Land

Switching gears from his international fame as a go-to bad guy, Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen proves a fine hero in The Promised Land.  Recognizable to millions as a James Bond nemesis in Casino Royal or with the last name Lector in the series Hannibal, Mikkelsen puts his commanding presence to good use as a retired Army officer seeking fortune and respect by turning the wilds of 1700s Denmark into farmland. Using a book by Ida Jessen, director Nikolaj Arcel co-writes a script with Anders Thomas Jensen that contains some roots in history along with imagination more fertile than the soil its hero hopes to till.  The director creates an intense and absorbing drama with epic proportions. Detailed use of period props, costumes, and settings gives Promised Land rich substance, with scenes of beauty contrasted by brutality and bloodshed. Arcel’s camera sweeps across vast, untamed wilderness as main character Ludvig Kahlen sets out on a seemingly impossible task. Few call tilling the land easy in the first place, but Captain Kahlen faces an onslaught of obstacles that make his dream a nightmare. The era’s grim times go beyond mere weather, though frost and snow make a dutiful appearance. The list of barriers runs long: a caste system that refuses to recognize Kahlan’s noble blood, superstition that threaten ties to an adopted daughter, a labor shortage, and if all that fails to kill the captain’s quest, throw in horrific terrain, and worst of all, a murderous psychopath bent on stopping competition. Through all these tribulations, Mikkelsen’s solid and stoic bearing makes him a worthy companion on a dark but promising journey.

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