War Journalism Unglorified in ‘Salvador’: A Review

After watching Salvador for the first time, Kelsi Farrington talks about the role of war journalists in the 1986 film Salvador and asks you to relate the film to current affairs..

Journalism is at its rawest, dirtiest and purist forms in Oliver Stone‘s Salvador (1986). It is set amidst the Civil War of 1980 in El Salvador where an anti-heroic journalist, Richard Boyle (Woods) stumbles upon in desperation to get himself away from his shambled life.

 Filmed in 1986, Salvador forces you into the unglorified world and work of war journalists. It epitomizes that hunger for fame and the hunt for fortune. Unlike some war replicated films (i.e. Schindler’s List and The Pianist), Salvador provides no artistic integrity whatsoever just raw grimy war. In regards to any form of Hollywood appeal, albeit there is a love story amidst all of the horror, there is no happy ending.

Both writer and director of the film, Oliver Stone provides a film worth watching but worth baring in mind that the visual coverage is of a war at its truest. Woods is not the most likeable of characters but even he is unfalteringly real, which he does well as an actor. He, and his co-star and comrade Doc, are not your stereotypical clean-cut high-paid journalists. They live in the slums of not just Salvador but in their home of California. It shows that there are people in this life who struggle regardless of where they are in the world, they never have an easy time. Death and poverty seems to cling to their ankles as they try to shake it off and try to board a higher paid, higher paced life.

Stone creates a real sense of the viewer being in the backseat of the characters’ car (which is on its last life). We follow them, as the audience, and we develop a sense of when violence is bubbling beneath the surface. You develop a sense of death. Death is everywhere in this film from a burnt-out body at the very start, raped then murdered nuns and a bloodied child laying within a sack of grains, you cannot escape it. It makes you realise that for the people of Salvador, there was no escape either and you can do nothing but accept it as they did.

What the film highlights beyond the typical ‘war is horrible’ standpoint, is the fact that those who were rich at that particular moment were the blind ones. They were blind to the corruption of the politics and the horror. It was as if they were censored to the true occurrences of Salvador or were so immersed in their own wellbeing. In high contrast to those who were less off and could do nothing but see what exactly was happening and stand back as their homes were burnt down and their wives, husbands, children and friends were shot before their eyes. Awaiting their turn to be the next casualty of an uncontrollable war in their front yard.

One of the characters, Kelly says “it’s a terrible thing to happen to a country” and Stone painted this image for all of us who were either blind to the war or who see it as a part of history. A dark patch in history which highlights the horrors of war and the corruption of politics.

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