Friday, July 08, 2011

Review: Amigo

I was browsing Click The City when I noticed a film called Amigo opening this week. I never heard about it before and frankly I thought this one of those local gay “sexy” movies masquerading as ‘indie films’ that always randomly pops up at Click The City's movie listings which resident critic Philbert Dy always reviews*

*I love reading Philbert's reviews but I find it bizarre that he would take the effort to review those movies comprehensively but I do get a kick out of reading those especially the way he points out its flaws and the lack of effort from the producers to make their movies decent.

To my surprise, Amigo is a historical film which stars respected Filipino actors Joel Torre, Rio Locsin, Ronnie Lazarro, Bembol Rocco, John Arcilla, Irma Adlawan and foreign actors that include Oscar winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation) and Garret Dillahunt (TV's Raising Hope). Upon reading the film's synopsis, Amigo got my interest immediately plus it's quite rare these days to see a film in this genre in a semi-wide release and shown on major cinemas in Metro Manila and some provinces**. At first I thought the film was a local production since it has local stars after all and was shot in Bohol but it's actually an American film written and directed by Oscar nominee John Sayles (but there are local production crews as well). That fact escalated my interest even more so I immediately watched the movie on its opening day (July 6) and I can proudly say that it was worth the money and I really hope more people can catch it (it will just have a limited one week run).

In a nutshell, Amigo tells the story of how San Isidro, a small barrio in the Philippines, was caught in the middle during the almost forgotten Philippine-American war that happened at the turn of the 20th century when Spain relinquished their hold of the Philippines to the Americans. Admittedly, I’m not a history expert nor was I a good student back then when I studied it but I do recall that this period of time in the country’s history was barely discussed in school so the fact that this movie tells this largely unheard story is commendable.

Joel Torre plays Rafael, the cabeza or the town mayor who is conflicted on how he could keep his town safe while at the same time cooperating with the Americans and dealing with the local rebels (which his brother and son are part of) that also demands his loyalty. Torre is just magnificent and definitely carries the film all throughout. All the supporting characters, both Filipino and foreign, did a solid job. They could have given more but the film has a lot of characters that they simply didn’t have the time to flesh out the characters even more.

The film can sometimes feel like, unsurprisingly, a history lecture but it was presented in a way that will draw your attention completely. The characters and the town of San Isidro are charming and so raw that you would actually feel what it feels like to live there during that time. You could see how carefully constructed this film is with thorough research and keen attention to detail. I know that people often associate ‘history” to ‘boring” but I assure you that Amigo isn’t.

I appreciate the film’s attempt to show all sides of the conflict from the ordinary townsfolk to the Americans to the local rebels and even the Spaniards and (for a brief time) the Chinese. The audience will understand or at least learn where all the conflicting camps are coming from and why they make certain decisions.

Doing films about a war is quite difficult to do because it will always illicit reactions that there could be bias and propaganda involved but Amigo simply tells a story of people who are victims of circumstances and further solidifies the statement that in war, no one will ever truly win.

**You can watch "Amigo" at the following cinemas (via Click The City):
  • Gateway Cineplex 4
  • Glorietta 4 Cinema 4
  • Midtown Cinema 1
  • SM City Manila 4
  • SM City North Edsa Cinema 5
  • SM Mall of Asia Cinema 5
  • SM Megamall Cinema 11
  • TriNoma Cinema 1
  • SM City Bacoor Cinema 4
  • SM Cebu Cinema 5
  • SM City Davao Cinema 5
Visit their official sites to know more about the film:

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