USA, 1986, 122 min
Salvador starts off as what could be fear and loathing amid guerrilla warfare, with washed up journalist Richard Boyle (James Woods) dragging his degenerate cohort Doctor Rock (James Belushi) on a road trip to El Salvador, guzzling booze and popping pills the entire way. However, the film takes an entirely different tack once they enter the country, as they witness the execution of a student protester by soldiers of the repressive, rightwing military. Salvador then explodes into a frenetic collision of antiwar film, love story and buddy comedy. Director Oliver Stone weaves enough true-life events into the screenplay (cowritten with the real-life Boyle) to give the film plausible grit. Most of the key events in the film did actually happen, although perhaps not as spectacularly as Stone portrays them. However, the pacing and cinematography are so gripping that it's easy to excuse such liberties in the name of great drama. Woods shines as Richard Boyle, an amped up beautiful loser, who while despicable in one scene becomes affectionate or even honorable in the next. Salvador holds up particularly well for today, and although the flashpoint has now shifted from Central America to the Middle East, the questions raised in the film about U.S. military involvement in developing countries are equally relevant today. When Boyle chides an American colonel, "You trained them how to torture, how to kill, then you sent them here. . . . What are the death squads but the brainchild of the CIA?", it could easily be the musings of many a modern day journalist.
Salvador screens as part of SFIFF54's Founder's Directing Award program, An Evening with Oliver Stone.