Has-been gonzo journalist James Woods sees the civil unrest in El Salvador as a opportunity to make some money but when his Salvadoran girlfriend and her family become embroiled in the violence, his attitudes soon change.
Salvador is a damning criticism of the continued and shameful interference in the affairs of foreign countries by the United States. The Reagan era saw the U.S. giving aid to any despot or monster for the sole reason of the fact they were not part of the communist “threat” and funded the military junta in El Salvador despite their atrocious human rights record. The core of the film is Woods’ tirade against the U.S. “military adviser”: “Yes I’m left wing but that doesn’t make me a communist! When will you people learn to tell the difference?!”. Showing many of the horrific events of the conflict with honesty and passion, Woods is perfect for the part and is ably supported by John Savage as a photo journalist looking for the “perfect shot” and James Belushi as his debauched companion. The only real flaw is that amidst Oliver Stone’s heartfelt preaching he forgets the human element, the plot barrelling along with little thought for pacing or emotional connection with the characters.
It’s a thought provoking and well made film however and amongst Stone’s best work.