Monday, August 11, 2008

REVIEW: Salvador

About two years ago I purchased the box-set of Oliver Stone's complete works. It's been gathering dust on a shelf since then. There's always another movie I seem to want to watch. What with the recent trailer from "W" making it's rounds on the internet, I thought it was time to break out the set and start chronologically through Stone's career.

I've only seen a few of his movies, you know, the one's everybody's seen (Platoon, JFK, U-Turn...) Ok, maybe not everybody, but those are it. So, I didn't know what to expect on his first outing as a major film director with a budget and I had no idea what Salvador was about.

Salvador is a biographical film about photo-journalist Richard Boyle (who helped Stone write the script) during the failed revolution in 1980 and 1981. (It's widely emphasized that Reagan's policies had a lot to do with this, in fact, the Fascist leaders in the country praise Reagan's election.) But the film plunges you into 1980 El Salvador and really gives you a taste of how shitty things were (and in some cases, probably still are) in Central America at the time. It's sad, really.

And James Woods delivers the performance of his life as our lens for the politics of the film. Yeah, he's a liberal guy, but he's got a soul and a conscience and when he lets loose with his moral outrage against the military and CIA stooges, you can feel it. You get pissed. And the stuff that the American's turn a blind eye to is enough to make you sick. When the fascists order a group of American nuns to be raped and killed for...whatever reason... It's just disgusting. The American Ambassador (played competently by Michael Murphy, whom I've enjoyed in a couple of Woody Allen movies, particularly Manhattan) tries to cut off military aid to the fascists, but the military and the CIA and the Reagan-ites back him into a corner and force him to relent, thus shattering the peasant uprising, for fear that communism might spread.

At the end of the day, this film really just pissed me off in all the wrong ways for absolutely the right reasons.

I also found it startling how much that period in US foreign policy seemed like today. The US was perpetrating terror. And when they weren't perpetrating it personally, they were enabling the perpetrators.

It really makes me sad that America hasn't wised up.

For anyone that has a moral compass I would recommend this movie. It puts fire in your belly.

(For related reading (only in subject matter, not geography or time) I would recommend Kurt Vonnegut's essay's about the long-since passed country of Biafra.)

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