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as Rafael Dacanay
as Rafael Dacanay
as Lt. Compton
as Col. Hardacre
as Zeke Whatley
as Padre Hidalgo
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Critic Reviews for Amigo
A reflection on power and betrayal, on the thin line between acting as your conscience demands and protecting obligations close to your heart.
Sayles is always an interesting storyteller, and if "Amigo" isn't typical of his subtler methods, it's still a compelling look at history and its continuing influence.
You could argue that the chief villain of the ambiguously titled "Amigo" is language, which is used quite deliberately to mock and mislead and betray.
By choosing Rafael as its hero, "Amigo" looks not only at a little-known part of American history, but at a rarely examined type of movie character.
Audience Reviews for Amigo
"Amigo" starts out on an ordinary day in the baryo of San Ysidro in the Philippines in 1900 before the silence is broken by the American army invading to restore order. Joaquin(James Obenza) escapes just ahead of the army's bullets to join the insurrectionaries led by his uncle Simon(Ronnie Lazaro), while leaving behind his father Rafael(Joel Torre) to lead the village. The Americans also release the prisoners held by the insurrectionaries, allowing them to go to Manila but Father Hidalgo(Yul Vazquez) agrees to stay as there are souls to save and people to annoy. Lieutenant Compton(Garret Dillahunt) is eager to move on also but Colonel Hardacre(Chris Cooper) orders him to stay behind so his soldiers can head off any rebellion.
"Amigo" is John Sayles in fine form in that he not only captures the rhythms and details of another time and place, with a little known bit of history which I had studied back in college, but also in telling a timeless story that admittedly does have a hokey and drawn out ending. He also economically employs scraps of dialogue to fill in the backstory on the various characters. A lot of that goes to his talent for telling a story from as many different angles as possible which keeps the villains to a minimum and not sugarcoating the actions of the insurrectionists. If there is one, then I would like to volunteer the colonel, as his actions will have repercussions for decades to come. It's not just the writing that is to be applauded but also an excellent use of crosscutting between similar activities as performed by different groups and the best metaphor ever for cockfighting. Throughout, it is the Filipino people that have the most sympathy here, as underlined by Rafael when he points out that they are fucked from both sides.
"Amigo" is a small, interesting little low-budget film that benefits from beautiful photography and Sayles' well-paced direction. For its two hour running time, it breezes by and remains consistently entertaining. A few performances are off and the costume design is bland, but "Amigo" is another fine outing from one of cinema's greatest storytellers.
John Sayles is a one of a kind filmmaker (I mean have you seen Lone Star?) and a brilliant provocateur. His latest, Amigo, is no less a potent piece of work. Amigo is a look at American imperialism through the history of the United States occupation of the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. Sayles' source material is the novel A Moment in The Sun, but the writer-director focuses the action wonderfully on life in the village of San Isidro, a place torn by conflict.
Filipino actor Joel Torre is stellar as Rafael, a village big cheese who attempts to play amigo with the American occupiers, led by Lt. Compton (the sexy and excellent Garret Dillahunt from tv's Raising Hope) and his racist commander Col. Hardacre (Chris Cooper, superb as usual). This doesn't sit well with Rafael's brother Simon (Ronnie Lazaro) who leads a band of rebels, and the set up draws stark parallels to modern day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Working with a 128 minute running time and a script in English, Spanish and Tagalog, Sayles is bound to trip up on his greater ambitions, and he does, but no sense in finding fault in a filmmaker striving for something felt and true. Years after his marvelous 1980 debut The Return of The Secaucus Seven, Sayles is still looking at the world through his own unique lens, and Amigo is a remarkable example of his skill. It stays with you.
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