Ben Hibburd’s review published on Letterboxd:
James Woods is at his sleazy best in Oliver Stone's fiery story about the failure and meddling of American foreign policy. James Woods stars a burnout journalist Richard Boyle. Boyle's life is a mess and nobody wants to hire him. So he decides to take it upon himself to cover the conflict in El Slavador during the eighties dictatorship and eventual coup. Tagging alongside him is his friend and loser Doctor Rock (Jim Belushi) together they navigate the increasingly volatile country they find themselves in.
The film doesn't have one singular plot that can be nailed down. This is the personification of a "hang-out" movie. The characters go about their daily routine waiting for things to happen, however, when things do kick off they often find themselves having to beg, borrow and steal their way out of trouble, that is until things become personal towards the end and a familiar narrative motif kicks in.
Oliver Stone is a director I admire more than I enjoy. He's made some truly great films such-as: "Talk Radio" and "Platoon", however, I find his style of filmmaking to be overly frenetic to the point of convulsion. Thankfully, this might be his most stylistically restrained film, yet it loses none of the potency he's renowned for. There are some truly ugly, nasty scenes that happen during the course of the film and the camera is not afraid to showcase it. I wouldn't say that this is a film I enjoyed but it is an important film that highlights the destructive nature of American interventionism and the flimsy despots that are backed who desperately and violently cling to power. The film also highlights the ramifications of a coup, and how most revolutionaries can and oftentimes are as bad as their replacements.
"Salvador" is Oliver Stone at his best. He doesn't rely on flashy editing, or pacing that feels as though you've done two lines of coke and drank seven cans of Red Bull. Stone allows the camera to linger, and not just on the central characters but the background environment. This film adsorbs you into another world. One that's close but feels so far away.
out of all of Stone's films "Salvador" feels like the most relevant in today's political climate. The film asks complex questions on the morality of regime change, support of dictators, the cost of protecting self-interest in a region etc. "Salvador" is already in my top three Stone films after my first watch!