Director: Peter Antonijevic
Cast: Jean-Marc Barr, Svetozar Cvetkovic, Nebojsa Glogovac, Nastassja
Kinski,Dennis Quaid, Stellan
Skarsgard, Oliver Stone.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of the 1992-1996 Bosnian War was that it was an
'intimate' war, in which the opposing sides often knew each other. Long-simmering ethnic
tensions turned neighbor against neighbor, catalyzed by the nationalistic rhetoric of the
Milosevic regime and the painful memories of
past misdeeds. The war became an excuse to
right perceived wrongs, an opportunity for the underpaid Serb employee to take out his
rage on his Muslim boss and his family, or for the Muslim farmer to exact retribution
against the Croat shopkeeper who never gave him a good price. These personal vendettas
brought out the ugliest side of the war, contributing to the numerous atrocities that were
committed in the name of ethnic unity. However, despite the unrelenting cruelty and
violence that consumed Bosnia-Hercegovina, there were many instances throughout the war in
which individuals found the courage to take a stand against the brutality around them,
finding the humanity and compassion within themselves
to perform personal acts of heroism. As numerous Bosnian Serb
paramilitary units (the so-called 'Chetniks') cut a swath through the Bosnian countryside
emptying towns and villages of their Muslim inhabitants, other Bosnian Serbs chose to help
their Muslim neighbors by keeping them hidden from the roving Chetnik death squads. In
besieged Sarajevo, Serb residents that stayed in the city took up arms and fought
alongside their Muslim brethren against the well-armed Chetniks that surrounded the city.
In Sarajevo's Kosevo hospital, the few remaining doctors worked non-stop 48-hour shifts
under appalling conditions in order to treat the never-ending line of sick and wounded. As
Peter Maas wrote in his tome on the Bosnian War, "Love They
Neighbor", Bosnia was a 'country full
The film starts in 1987, with Guy (Dennis Quaid of "The Parent Trap"), an
American soldier, losing his wife (Nastassja Kinski) and son after a Muslim terrorist bomb
explodes in a Parisian cafe. In a blind rage, Guy marches down to the nearest mosque and
shoots several Muslim men in the midst of prayer. To Guy, all Muslims are guilty for the
murder of his wife and child, and this hateful
perspective eventually takes him to Bosnia-Hercegovina six years
later, where he is a hired mercenary working for the Bosnian Serbs. At first, Guy has no
qualms gunning down civilians, even children, as he views all Muslims with disdain,
especially in light of his best friend's (Stellan Skarsgard of "Ronin") recent
death, killed by a Muslim girl's grenade. However, he soon begins to understand the
repercussions of the hateful path that he is on when he helps a fellow Serb soldier, Goran
(Sergej Trifunovic), with a prisoner exchange during a brief cease-fire. They come into
custody of Vera (Natasa Ninkovic), a Serbian woman who was impregnated by a Muslim captor.
Despite all that she has been through, Goran shows nothing but scorn for her plight,
blaming her for 'allowing' herself to be raped. As they drive Vera back to her parents'
home, Goran decides to teach Vera a lesson by dragging her out of the car and throwing her
onto the ground. He then begins attacking her, determined to execute both her and her
'Muslim bastard child'. Despite being hardened by years of fighting and personal loss, Guy
is unwilling to allow an innocent woman and child to be killed, and so he shoots Goran and
ends up delivering the baby when Vera goes into premature labor.
However, Vera believes very much in the
hateful rhetoric spouted by Goran-- so much, that she refuses to feed or take care of her
newborn child, leaving Guy to look after the both of them. Unfortunately, Vera ends up
being rejected by her own father, a stern man who feels that she has betrayed the family
honor and would be better off killing herself. It is here that the film shifts into
road-movie mode, with Guy driving across the Bosnian countryside in the hope of finding
Vera and her child a
|new home-- a
journey that will help Guy rediscover the humanity and compassion that have been
long-buried by deep-seated hatred.
Scribe Robert Orr, who came up with the screenplay while working in Bosnia-Hercegovina as
a photographer's assistant, was inspired by the real-life exploits of an ex-Foreign legion
sniper. In the hands of long-time Serbian director Peter Antonijevic, "Savior"
is an uncompromising and inspiring film that makes its point without becoming overly
melodramatic or heavy-handed. At the heart of the story is a simple concept, the emotional
reawakening of its protagonist, and it is executed in an earnest yet effective manner. The
cathartic pilgrimage that both Guy and Vera undertake is a difficult one, and the script
never loses sight of this. Instead of spinning the story into a less-than-satisfying
melodramatic or romantic direction, the screenplay stays the course, providing an honest,
yet solemn, resolution.
The film's simple-yet-powerful approach is further supported with strong performances
given by Quaid and Ninkovic, performances that arguably carry the film. Both actors handle
their characters' transformational arcs with a great deal of skill and believability, as
they do the uneasy relationship between their two characters. Of particular note, there
are several scenes in which Quaid manages to convey the emotional turmoil of his character
with only a mere facial expression that speaks volumes. It is hard to imagine another
actor in Quaid's place that would be able to bring such austerity and dignity to the role.
Overall, "Savior" is an inspiring film of redemption in a most unlikely part of
the world. While it shows us that mankind is capable of great evil, it also shows us the
potential within all of us to resist it. On the one hand, it is certainly disturbing, as
several scenes provide a brutally honest and personal perspective of the never-ending
cycle of violence in the Balkans. However, "Savior" also provides a glimmer of
hope in its protagonist Guy, a man who manages to overcome his own antipathy and apathy
with a simple act of kindness.