>If Robert Redford‘s “The Conspirator” was the strident and overbearing example of how to draw links between events of the past to issues of today, John Sayles‘ “Amigo” is the antidote. Using the tail-end of the American-Phillipine war as a backdrop, Sayles does what Redford can’t. Forgoing character lessons, big speeches and a single-minded tack, Sayles’ film is a complex and organically built work that coaxes meaning out of the situations it builds rather than putting the politics first and constructing a story around it.
If you forgot or skipped your history class on the war, not to worry. While Sayles drops us right into the jungle, in the midst of the ongoing conflict, his microcosm approach doesn’t rely on audiences knowing the ins and outs of war. We begin with an army unit, led by Lt. Compton (Garret Dillahunt), occupying a Phillipine village to primarily sever any ties the village might have with a guerrilla rebel campaign that is still being fought against the Americans, and to secondly instill the supposed values of democracy among the people. The Americans are assisted by a local friar who acts as translator, but the village leader Rafael (Joel Torre) retains his position as a decision maker in the village to help. Unbeknownst to the Americans, Rafael’s brother is part of the resistance group that is residing in the nearby hills, and via some connections, continues to receive food and supplies from the village.