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Salvador Reviews

Caustic, vivid, and without question the best major film about recent conflicts in Latin America. This often-overlooked Oliver Stone effort is in some ways better than his Oscar-winning Vietnam film PLATOON. Although there have been other major films dealing with conflict in Latin America (Chile in MISSING; Nicaragua in UNDER FIRE), none has conveyed the chaos, tension, and fear within the region as convincingly as SALVADOR. Based on the experiences of real-life journalist Richard Boyle, the film begins in 1980, as the unemployed veteran reporter (played brilliantly by James Woods) heads down to El Salvador with his buddy, Dr. Rock (James Belushi), an out-of-work disc jockey. Promising drink, drugs, and an endless supply of cheap whores, Boyle cons his friend into coming along to a place where he can make some quick money covering a "little guerrilla war." Once they cross the border, however, things begin to get dangerous as Boyle becomes embroiled in the devastating civil war. Director Stone persuasively conveys the turmoil and horror of life in El Salvador; at the same time, he shows the rebirth of conscience in a cynical, self-absorbed journalist whose problems pale in comparison with the atrocities suffered by the Salvadoran people. Woods is superb, and it is a tribute to his considerable dramatic skill that he manages to elicit sympathy for a uniquely obnoxious character. But if Woods' performance is one of the most challenging and fascinating to hit the screen in some time, it is Stone's stinging portrayal of El Salvador that gives the film its disturbing tone. Limning the chaotic events of 1980-81, Stone recreates the confusion, terror, senselessness, and despair felt by Salvadorans, while jaded Americans--government, military, and press--blithely ignore the realities of the country's predicament. Stone's camera suggests photojournalism, always on the move, running, swirling, probing, trying to get as close as possible to the truth of the tragedy in El Salvador.