Salvador (1986)


Director:  Oliver Stone

Starring:  James Woods (Richard Boyle), James Belushi (Doctor Rock), Michael Murphy (Ambassador Thomas Kelly), John Savage (John Cassady), Elpidia Carrillo (Mara), Tony Plana (Maj. Maximiliano 'Major Max' Casanova, presidential candidate), Colby Chester (Jack Morgan, U.S. State Dept. Analyst, CIA), Cynthia Gibb (Cathy Moore), Will MacMillan (Col. Bentley Hyde Sr.), Valerie Wildman (Pauline Axelrod), Jos Carlos Ruiz (Archbishop Romero), Jorge Luke (Col. Julio Figueroa), Juan Fernndez (Army lieutenant), Salvador Snchez (Human rights leader), Rosario ZZiga (Human rights assistant).

A has-been war correspondent tries to become a star again by investigating the troubles in El Salvador.  He finds more than he bargained for with the nation in a civil war and people being killed every day. 


Good movie.  The period covered is between 1980 and 1981 in El Salvador.  The political situation is extremely bad.  At a student/worker demonstration 18 people were killed and 36 wounded.  In the previous two months, 3,000 people had disappeared.

News photographer Richard Boyle (James Woods), who has lost his press card for his irresponsibility, is living in San Francisco with his wife and child, but desperately wants to get back into the action by heading down to El Salvador.  Not getting any support, he decides to go by himself.  (His wife takes the child and leaves him, so he is unhindered by any ties.)  He takes Doctor Rock (James Belushi) with him.

As soon as they enter El Salvador, they know they are in trouble. They see the military shoot a student in the head and they are forcibly taken down to see Col. Julio Figueroa, commander 3rd Brigade, Infantry, Santa Ana Garrison. Luckily for Boyle, the Colonel remembers him from an earlier sojourn of his to El Salvador.

He teams up with news photographer John Cassady (John Savage) and they go to El Playon, a dumping site for the victims of the death squads, to takes some photos. They find a shocking sight as the bodies cover the garbage hills.

They visit the Main Cathedral at San Salvador where family members come to find out about those who have simply "disappeared," of which there are at least 10,000.

Reagan takes over from Jimmy Carter as President of the United States. And, of course, Regan being a right wing man, talks about the rebels in El Salvador as terrorists and pushes policies that support the murderous dictatorship.

The movie covers some huge news events in El Salvador, namely the assassination of Archbishop Romero (who supported liberation theology) and the rape and murder of four nuns active in service to the poor of the country.

Meanwhile, Richard Boyle is making himself an enemy of the existing regime by asking impertinent questions in public. This puts not only Boyle on the hot seat, but his Salvadoran girlfriend and her two children.

And then the rebellion gets red hot. (And, of course, you know which side the U.S. will support the reactionary side).

As the violence grows ever hotter, it is time for Boyle and his friend to get out of El Salvador. Boyle also wants to take his girlfriend and her two children out of the country.

Will Boyle be able to get himself and everyone else out of El Salvador without everyone or some of the group being killed?

The movie keeps you worried about Boyle and many others in a repressive regime, so it does its job well. James Woods is terrific as the reporter with a checkered past and an amazing ability to talk fast and dissemble. Its just too bad the US doesnt support the good guys once in awhile.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background:


See Romero (1989)




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