The Promised Land review: an immersive historical epic

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Alex Welch

By Alex Welch February 3, 2024 9:01AM

Mads Mikkelsen stands adjacent a burning section successful The Promised Land.

“Director Nikolaj Arcel's The Promised Land is simply a visually stunning, thoughtfully made drama.”


  • Mads Mikkelsen's softly captivating lead performance
  • Rasmus Videbæk's visually rich | cinematography
  • Nikolaj Arcel's sturdy, unobtrusive direction


  • An ending that doesn't deed pinch arsenic overmuch weight arsenic it should
  • Several underdeveloped supporting characters

The Promised Land is simply a brutal, unforgiving play astir nan threat of ambition and nan greed that seems to thrust truthful galore who are already successful power. I recovered it oddly comforting. As unusual arsenic that whitethorn sound, nan movie is simply a uncommon beast successful nan world of modern moviemaking. It’s a modestly budgeted, well-constructed humanities epic made pinch specified clear attraction and trade that 1 feels permitted to beryllium backmost and fto it return you wherever it wants. Once upon a time, play dramas for illustration it utilized to beryllium acold much communal than they are now. In 2024, they look reserved for board for illustration Martin Scorsese (Silence) and Ridley Scott (Napoleon) — masters well-versed successful bringing history’s mislaid worlds to life.

For that reason, The Promised Land feels for illustration a spot of a miracle. The film, Danish writer-director Nikolaj Arcel’s follow-up to his underwhelming 2017 Stephen King adaptation, The Dark Tower, isn’t nan astir narratively blase play you’ll spot this year. The communicative it tells is wide successful some its scope and emotions, but nan spell it casts is often mesmerizing. With 1 of nan world’s top actors arsenic its lead, The Promised Land besides grounds itself successful a taciturn and yet quietly, beautifully expressive performance.

Mads Mikkelsen holds a pistol successful The Promised Land.Magnolia Pictures

Based connected a book by Danish writer Ida Jessen, nan movie stars Mads Mikkelsen arsenic Captain Ludvig Kahlen, a mediocre serviceman of nan German service who, successful nan aftermath of his retirement, seeks support to effort building a workplace successful nan fields of Denmark’s expansive heath. If he succeeds, he’ll not only beryllium nan first man to do truthful but besides beryllium granted nan benignant of spot and noble title he’s spent his full life trying to earn. His constricted costs make it difficult for him to enlistee capable workers for nan job, though, and he quickly finds himself successful a rivalry pinch Frederik de Schinkel (Simon Bennebjerg), a adjacent landowner who has nary liking successful cultivating nan heath but is concerned pinch nan effect that Kahlen’s efforts could person connected his wealth.

Their rivalry serves arsenic nan melodramatic bosom of The Promised Land, and nan progressively violent, petty quality of it inevitably calls to mind nan feud betwixt Daniel Day-Lewis’ merciless lipid baron and Paul Dano’s egotistical preacher successful Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. Arcel’s film, which is based connected a screenplay he co-wrote pinch Anders Thomas Jensen, ne'er reaches nan aforesaid thematic and barbaric heights arsenic Anderson’s 2007 masterpiece, but de Schinkel and Kahlen’s conflict complete power of nan Danish heath does beryllium to beryllium fertile worldly for The Promised Land to research its themes of class, greed, and reckless ambition.

Like There Will Be Blood, Arcel’s humanities play makes nan astir retired of its barren environment, which seems to agelong connected everlastingly successful each direction. The head and his cinematographer, Rasmus Videbæk, capable nan film’s first enactment pinch shots of Mikkelsen digging unsocial into nan aboveground of nan heath’s inhospitable fields. The framing and extent of these images some stress nan seeming futility of Kahlen’s efforts to crook quality to his will and induce you to get mislaid successful The Promised Land‘s untamed 18th-century landscapes. Meanwhile, nan Barry Lyndon-esque usage of earthy ray sources passim de Schinkel’s ornate state manor just further adds to nan film’s immersive qualities.

Simon Bennebjerg holds a solid of vino successful The Promised Land.Magnolia Pictures

As he pushes up pinch his plans, Mikkelsen’s erstwhile service serviceman grows gradually person to his fewer supporters: Ann Barbara (Amanda Collin), an escaped servant of de Schinkel who agrees to thief Kahlen successful speech for safe harbor; Anton Eklund (Gustav Lindh), a well-meaning state priest; and Anmai Mus (Melina Hagberg), a mischievous small woman who comes to position Ludvig arsenic a begetter figure. An improbable family forms betwixt nan 4 misfits, but it’s a in installments to Arcel and Jensen’s screenplay and Mikkelsen’s withdrawn capacity that The Promised Land ne'er veers into overly sentimental territory.

The movie holds onto its harsh separator each nan measurement done its runtime — delivering a 3rd enactment that is admirable successful its affectional and melodramatic messiness. Behind nan camera, Arcel resists nan impulse to spell retired nan movie’s climactic thumps excessively explicitly. Instead, He chooses to linger many times connected Mikkelsen’s look — nan actor’s impassive expressions make measurement for his eyes to subtly pass his character’s expanding exhaustion and desperation. Although Arcel delivers a bloody conclusion to nan changeless threat of unit that permeates passim The Promised Land, too, nan filmmaker successfully finds nan correct equilibrium betwixt horrifying brutality and gruesome catharsis.

Melina Hagberg faces Mads Mikkelsen successful The Promised Land.Magnolia Pictures

The movie yet continues connected a fewer minutes longer than it needs to, and its ending doesn’t onshore pinch arsenic overmuch affectional weight arsenic is intended, partially owed to nan underdeveloped quality of respective of its supporting characters — namely, Collin’s Ann Barbara. Thankfully, The Promised Land ne'er makes nan correction of overplaying immoderate of its last moments. It goes retired connected a quiet statement that reflects its protagonist’s overly mannered demeanor and elegantly rejects nan unwavering resoluteness he holds onto for overmuch of its story.

It’s a last wrinkle successful a movie that is astir arsenic straightforward and unshowy arsenic they travel and which is contented to stay astatine an understated cardinal for astir of its story. Those who cheque retired The Promised Land will, successful different words, apt find themselves immersed afloat successful a humanities epic that delivers everything it promises, arsenic good arsenic a small more.

The Promised Land is now playing successful theaters.

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  • Blonde review: a striking and reliable Marilyn Monroe biopic

Alex Welch

Alex Welch is simply a TV and movies writer based retired of Los Angeles. In summation to Digital Trends, his activity has been published by…

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