Home Estate Planning The Promised Land review: A Mads Mikkelsen masterclass

The Promised Land review: A Mads Mikkelsen masterclass

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Denmark’s most famous export, Mads Mikkelsen, returns from Hollywood to tell a remarkable story from his home country. He plays Ludvig Kahlen, a former army captain living in mid-1700s Denmark. He approaches the Royal Court with a proposition – to be allowed to build on the barren Jutland moorland, an area of the countryside where no-one has been able to farm, with the reward of a noble title if he succeeds. This impossible task is made harder as a local baron (Simon Bennebjerg) tries to sabotage him, leading to a bloody war of attrition. 

The idea of a man trying to grow potatoes may not sound like the most thrilling concept, but director Nikolaj Arcel makes the journey thrilling. Part period drama, part Western, his quest is about the tyranny of the rich, and the ability of the poor to withstand that oppression. As the farm grows, Kahlen develops a small found family with housekeeper Ann-Barbara (Amanda Collin) and orphaned gypsy Anmai Mus (Melina Hagberg), leading to genuinely touching moments in between the brutality of their lives. 

Mads Mikkelsen in The Promised Land

Mikkelsen is the ideal choice for this film’s tone, with his stern face conveying a torrent of emotion through the self-control of a military man, particularly when up against the film’s antagonist. Arcel is keen to make us see every horrid act Bennebjerg’s villain commits, with the third act in particular becoming hard to stomach. Still, the script and depth of the characters make this a story you will want to stick with to the bitter end. 

The Promised Land is a bleak but profoundly moving historical drama, with Mikkelsen perfectly cast as the stoic centre of the story. Even those who aren’t aware of the real-life context will be gripped by his struggle to survive. 

The Promised Land is in cinemas from 16th February

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