Before Vietnam or world-wide strife, the United States ushered in the new twentieth century with the Philippine-American War. An oft-forgotten conflict spanning from 1899 to 1902, the Philippines population were fighting against U.S. rule, after the Spanish-American War found the islands in American control. It was a time of confusion and mixed messages, battles that just so happen to draw parallels to today's international concerns -- making it the perfect cinematic landscape for venerable independent filmmaker John Sayles. But this isn't a polarizing and politically critical film in the vein of 'Silver City.' It's a character study that reveals what we see only rarely in big-screen war films -- the real people behind the conflict once the pomp and circumstance are washed away.
'Amigo' focuses on the turmoil one small and fictional Filipino baryo suffered during the American occupation. The village is run by Rafael (Joel Torre), an easygoing but firm man who inherited the post from his father. His world, however, is quickly bubbling out of control. His brother leads the nearby rebel army, his young son wants to join the fight, and then American soldiers march into the town and take command. Touting democratic ideals, Lt. Compton (Garret Dillahunt) quickly starts to change the small town. The once incarcerated and bitter Spanish priest (Yul Vasquez) becomes interpreter, Rafael is seen as nothing more than a tyrannical "Amigo," and the baryo begins to weaken under foreign rule.