Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Amigo Movie Poster Image
Downbeat war drama is intelligent but violent.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 128 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Over the course of the story, some of the American soldiers learn to empathize with their Filipino hosts, seeing them as human beings rather than as enemies or animals. The Filipino hero -- who is already a thoughtful, forgiving man -- shows some kindness in return. Overall, the movie also depicts the inhuman destruction of war.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lt. Compton is shown to be a decent American soldier, showing empathy toward the Filipino villagers, and another young solider falls in love with one of the local girls. Unfortunately, most of the soldiers don't feel the same way toward the Filipino people, and all of them are subject to their commander's orders, which generally don't include any kind of allowance for the locals.


The movie isn't overly violent or gory, but there's plenty of war violence, and many of the characters' lives are altered because of the war. Weapons are fired, many characters (both major and minor) are shot, and there's some blood. Children are involved in shootings. There's also a hanging and the suggestion of a cockfight, though brutal details aren't shown.


One character has an STD from sleeping with prostitutes. Implied sex between a married couple. An American soldier has a sweet romance with a local girl (no kissing or nudity). Slight innuendo.


Language is typical for a war-themed movie, with several uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "God" (as an exclamation), "goddamn," "whore," "ass," "son of a bitch," "piss," and the "N" word.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The American soldiers consume a local, homemade alcoholic drink; one becomes hooked on it, and he's often shown as slurring, sloppy drunk. He falls asleep on guard duty as a result of his drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this war-themed drama set in the Philippines, circa 1900, has a fair amount of war violence, with shootings, blood, death, and threats; children are involved in some of this. Strong language includes several uses of "f--k," "s--t," and the "N" word (about half of the movie is in English, the other half subtitled). There's also some sex talk, innuendo, and flirting, as well as heavy drinking. Written and directed by legendary indie filmmaker John Sayles, the movie tries to capture the point of view of American soldiers occupying a small baryo, as well as the locals who live there. The result is both uncommonly intelligent and uncommonly downbeat, and it's likely that only the most adventurous of older teens will be interested.

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What's the story?

In a small baryo in the Philippines, circa 1900 (during the Philippine-American War), Rafael (Joel Torre) is a fair and beloved "head man" whose brother is the leader of a band of guerilla soldiers. Before long, the U.S. military arrives and occupies the village, and Rafael finds himself caught between trying to cooperate with Lt. Compton (Garret Dillahunt) and secretly helping his brother. A Spanish priest (Yul Vazquez) is also on hand to make things more complicated, while the bored Americans begin to dabble in drinking and flirting with local girls. Soon Rafael and the lieutenant begin to understand each other, but will their newfound empathy protect them from the horrors of war?

Is it any good?

Legendary indie filmmaker John Sayles (Eight Men Out, The Secret of Roan Inish) delivers an uncommonly intelligent war-themed movie in AMIGO, and on a much smaller scale than usual. He burrows into individual characters, rather than battles; there are no clear "good guys" or "bad guys." Eventually the characters begin to discover one another's humanity, and war becomes an unfortunate side effect rather than the main point.

Movies this intelligent and aware of so many different points of view should be celebrated, so kudos to Sayles for pulling it off, time and again, in his multi-decade career. If there's a quibble here, it's that in focusing so heavily on the head, he sometimes forgets the heart. Amigo has been made with great care and sympathy, but it's a bit difficult to get enthusiastic over it, especially given the movie's downbeat tone and the difficult lessons it imparts.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. How does its compare to what you might see in a blockbuster action movie? Which has more impact? Why?

  • Are there "good guys" and "bad guys" in this war? What does the movie have to say about war in general?

  • Why do you think the filmmaker chose such a downbeat ending? What does it mean?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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