Jon Sayles's new film about the leader of a village during the Philippine-American war is an action film and an “intelligently rip-roaring” history lecture.
Directed by John Sayles(R)
“Amigo aspires to educate more than entertain, but it’s no less engrossing for that,” said J. Hoberman in The Village Voice. Written and directed by indie stalwart John Sayles, it’s a story about the leader of a Philippine village who’s caught in the middle when American troops occupy his town in an effort to suppress a freedom movement stoked by the 1898 end of Spanish rule. Though “nearly every shot” Sayles includes in the film is “designed to deliver a message” about American imperialism, the result is a “thoughtful action film,” a history lecture that’s “intelligently rip-roaring.” But like a lot of Sayles’s historical movies, this one is better in concept than execution, said Richard Corliss in Time. Determined to draw parallels to more-recent American wars, Sayles lays out a complex array of competing interests, then for too long “refuses to turn up the heat.” But if the film’s “narrative blueprint is frequently visible,” the movie is saved by Filipino star Joel Torre, who gives the drama a conflicted but sympathetic protagonist, said A.O. Scott in The New York Times. “All in all,” Sayles is a “pretty good history teacher.”