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Salvador (1986)

tomatometer

92

Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 24
Fresh: 22 | Rotten: 2

Despite its somewhat disjointed narrative, Oliver Stone's Salvador is a vivid and powerful political drama that sets an early tone for the director's similarly provocative future projects.

No Score Yet...

Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 4
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 2

Despite its somewhat disjointed narrative, Oliver Stone's Salvador is a vivid and powerful political drama that sets an early tone for the director's similarly provocative future projects.

audience

86

liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 8,191

My Rating

Movie Info

While Salvador wasn't Oliver Stone's first film (a pair of offbeat horror stories preceded it), it defined his style of fiercely dramatic, politically oriented filmmaking, staked out his territory as one of the major directors of the 1980s and 1990s, and remains one of his strongest works to date. Veteran photojournalist Richard Boyle (James Woods) has been taking his camera to the world's trouble spots for over 20 years; while he does good work, Boyle's fondness for booze and drugs, and his

R,

Mystery & Suspense, Drama

Oliver Stone, Rick Boyle

Jun 5, 2001

MGM Pictures, Inc.

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All Critics (24) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (22) | Rotten (2) | DVD (14)

The polemic may seem obvious and at times laboured, but the action sequences are brilliant, and the film does achieve a brutal, often very moving, power.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[The] crime spree feels more like bored rich kids on a joy ride than committed leftie intellectuals hastening regime change.

May 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One look at the youthful, idealistic guerrillas, accompanied everywhere by folk music, and you know where Mr. Stone's heart lies.

May 21, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Salvador is long and disjointed and tries to tell too many stories...But the heart of the movie is fascinating.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Borgesian critique, or exotic backdrop for a scoundrel's Hollywood redemption?

April 21, 2010 Full Review Source: CinePassion
CinePassion

Though structurally messy and with uneven dialogue, Stone's independent movie captures vividly the cool, rush, and hysteria of jaded leftist American journos in the political chaos of El Slavaodr in 1980-81; James Woods Oscar-nominated turn is brilliant

September 18, 2007 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

One of Oliver Stone's best films, and absolutely James Woods' best performance.

April 9, 2007 Full Review Source: eFilmCritic.com
eFilmCritic.com

Lean, Mean and On Point. Stone's best film.

August 2, 2006 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

Still Oliver Stone's best film.

May 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Brutally moving depiction of the civil war in El Salvador in 1980.

June 13, 2005 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

An emotional and political sledgehammer.

February 22, 2005 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Woods is superb, and it is a tribute to his considerable dramatic skill that he manages to elicit sympathy for a uniquely obnoxious character.

July 30, 2003 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Woods' greatest performance

May 23, 2003
Lawrence Journal-World

Oliver Stone's gripping depiction of turmoil in Central America is bolstered by Wood's mesmerising performance as a burned out reporter.

April 25, 2003
Lawrence Journal-World

Raw, gripping, edgy and enthralling, this is one of Stone's best and most powerful works.

July 25, 2001 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

most compelling in the vigor with which it takes its stance on American involvement in Central America

June 6, 2001
Q Network Film Desk

Salvador will likely always be a minor masterpiece in Stone's canon of work, but it's a solid, if ultimately narrow, effort.

May 30, 2001 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

Audience Reviews for Salvador

"..... remains one of his strongest works to date."

Maybe so, but I found it quite dated.
July 9, 2014
imrealgod

Super Reviewer

Not Oliver Stone's first film, but definitely the first to really show the direction his career would be taking (politically charged, hauntingly dramatic, very strong sense of vision and message). And, this was released the same year as his landmark Platoon, so 1986 was one great year for him.

Another thing about this movie that would become a Stone trademark is that it's based on actual events, with the script co-written by Stone and the subject of the film, in this case journalist Richard Boyle and his exploits in civil war torn El Salvador in the 1980s.

Boyle was basically a washed up sleazy gonzo journalist who, ever the opportunist, decided to go to El Salvador (well, return as it were) to make a quick buck getting photos of the tumultuous uprising going on. Along for the ride is his friend the American DJ Dr. Rock, who, like many from the U.S. was initially ignorant of what was going on. As the things they see and experience get more harrowing and brutal though, Boyle becomes enlightened and rather than just be there to cash in on thigns, becomes a crusader who regains his lost soul and humanity.

The film is really gritty and sometimes ugly, but it fits the subject matter perfectly. There's some great cinematography here, and the location shooting really helps, too. The great about this film is that Boyle is not really all that likeable of a guy. He's sleazy, opportunistic, and hedonistic, but he's still a fascinating guy, so that's what makes the film watchable. Plus, he does grow and change and earn the audience's care. James Woods really shines here as Boyle, and his Oscar nomination was much deserved. This is the second film I've watched recently with James Belushi in a dramatic role, and this one really cements my belief that he's a talent that has unfortunately fallen by the wayside. He's great as Dr. Rock, and seeing him and Woods together is quite reminiscent of a less zonkeed out Hunter S. Thompson sort of tale.

I'll admit that I really wasn't too familair with Boyle, or the situation in El Salvador. Sure, I've heard of it, but prior ot seeing this I couldn't really tell you anything about it. Basically the U.S. supplied military aid to the country to help root out the spread of communism, but the tactics used by the anti-communists were so brutal and vile that they pretty much reflected the actions of those they were trying to defeat. It's bitterly ironic, and some very compelling material, especially when you have these two down and out gringos swept up in the middle of things.

Stone can be a very challenging filmmaker with some tough films. This is one of those, but it also is rather accessbile. It does help to have a strong stomach though, and to be able to handle a lead that isn't usually all that likeable. If you can do that, then this will be a good film to give a watch.
June 25, 2012
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Off-beat actor meets eccentric director meets gritty material.
July 30, 2011
flixsterman
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

This is how a political drama is done, and it should be no surprise that Oliver Stone is the one to do it. I find it fitting that I watch this immediately after Hunt for Justice (how a political drama is not done). Stone understands that the political facts of El Salvador are less interesting than the human drama that inevitably creates and is affected by state-induced strife. Consequently, we get troubled, but ultimately engaging, characters like Boyle and Doc. And the film's main action has less to do with questions of Communism and Reagan-era, CIA-sponsored Latin American civil wars and more to concern with whether Boyle and Maria are going to live or die, escape or become ensconced in the conflict, love and live together or break up. This contrasts Hunt for Justice, in which there was no such suspense and no such high-stakes concern for the characters' lives. Of course, there is the requisite amount of Stone's political commentary, and much of it is given in Woods's characteristic rapid-fire delivery. Not to mention: if you watch the deleted scenes, you'll get to hear complex political analysis while the characters are getting blow jobs. Who says politics can't be fun?
The film does have flaws. As in JFK, NBK, and Born on the Fourth of July, Stone likes to pound his audience in the head with politically created human suffering. Sometimes it's effective; occasionally, in Salvador, it's overkill (no pun intended (of course, by saying that, I'm drawing attention to the fact that there's a pun (doesn't that imply a pun is intended?))). Also, I thought Boyle's relationship with Maria could have been front-loaded. We see him with an Italian wife at the beginning and various other women before we meet Maria. Even given the confession scene, what's to prevent us from thinking she's just another notch in Boyle's belt?
August 31, 2010
hunterjt13
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

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