- Mr. Eyeglasses
You can’t help but to compare the current wars being fought in the Middle East with the Philippine American war in the film. Are we doomed to relive the past? The film tells the story of the complex relationship that normal everyday people have with the 2 opposing sides. The invading Americanos have all the power and might. The rebels are poorly armed, but have right on their side. They are fighting for independence and against oppression. The villagers caught in the middle have family fighting for the rebels but also have to survive and obey the Americanos. Oh the dilemma! What do you do when you are put into an unwinnable situation? That’s what the main protagonist of the story the head villager Rafael must deal with played by legendary Filipino actor Joel Torre.
The film had a lot of political and social commentary. War and peace, church and state and might vs right. Oh and don’t get me started on the hypocrisy of the church. The film portrays them as being pompous and self serving. The priest is too human and you see him with petty human flaws like revenge and arrogance. Overall I thought all the issues did detract away from the acting. The film could have been more suspenseful and still tell the story it wanted. The directing left you not really caring about the characters in the film. You felt indifferent to them and in the end it lacks the punch the film intended to send its audience.
The coolest part was seeing some of the cast from Raising Hope show their dramatic acting chops. Lucas Neff who plays Jimmy in Raising Hope had an all too brief appearance in the movie. Garret Dillahunt who plays Jimmy’s dad Burt has a large role in the film. He plays the Lt. Compton, the American soldier sympathetic to the villagers but conflicted with doing his duty for America. Its nice to see them change from comedy to drama. You will also notice DJ Qualls from such films as Roadtrip and The new guy. When you see a comedy actor in a drama it makes you feel like they are the deformed man in a freak show. Out of place and out of sync with the rest of your life. But a nice surprise never the less.
Overall it was an adequate film. Would I watch it again…probably not? But I did get a kick out of seeing some comedic Americanos from television and the big screen in an independent drama.
Here’s Mr. Eyeglasses’ 2 cents on Amigo. I felt that John Sayles didn’t ‘take’ any sides when he made this film. For a while I thought he was on the American’s side and then I thought maybe he was on the villager’s side and then the rebels. More and more, I view this movie as a history lesson being unfold in front of our eyes. John Sayles touched a topic that was ignored or totally skipped out in our American History classes. I’ve never known about this part of the Spanish-American War and how American Imperialism was brought to the land of the Philippines. So kudos to John Sayles in an attempt to educate us of the past in comparison to what we are currently doing in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Many of the soldiers seem misplaced or disappointed for not being in the glory of fighting in Cuba. They often view the local Filipinos as sub-human and called them names that I rather not put on this review. Col Hardacre, played brilliantly by Chris Cooper showed just how ruthless he can be. He ordered his troops to destroy their fields and kill their livestocks. (That doesn’t win many hearts) Seems to me history repeats itself with the Vietnam War and now with the 2 wars in the middle east. The locals don’t like us and want us to leave, our troops don’t want to be there and are fighting for a lost cause. Seems to me history hasn’t change one bit at all. The face of American Imperialism at the core.
I give 3.5 stars for Amigo on the beautiful cinematography and the history lesson that I received from this film. Catch it if you want a beautiful history lesson for 128 minutes.
Directed & Written by: John Sayles
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 128 minutes
Joel Torre (Rafael), Garret Dillahunt (Lieutenant Compton), Chris Cooper (Colonel Hardacre), DJ Qualls (Zeke Whatley), Rio Locsin (Corazón), Ronnie Lazaro (Simón), Bembol Roco (Policarpio), Yul Vázquez (Padre Hidalgo), Dane DeHaan (Gil), Stephen Taylor (Private Bates), James Parks (Sergeant Runnels), Art Acuña (Locsin) and Pen Medina (Albay).
Budget: $1,200,000 (estimated)
$37,324 (USA) (21 August 2011) (10 Screens)
$100,168 (USA) (4 September 2011)