Friday, January 8, 2010
Ostensibly a biography of a man who ruled Nicaragua for a few years in the 19th Century, Walker is in reality an anachronistic highly political message film. I think I loved it.
Ed Harris plays the title character as a droll, fun-hating puritan, a man as confident in his beliefs as he is willing to abandon them when it suits him. Here, he is a stand-in for America. The film was shot in Nicaragua during the contra war with the blessing of the Sandinista government, and the obvious parallels between the two moments in time become literal when [click through for spoilers]
Walker finishes his proud statement of intent that America will essentially be all up in Nicaragua business for ever and ever and promptly walks out to greet a helicopter from the State department. There have been other brief moments of time-fuckage: the army walks over the grave of Sam Peckinpah in one scene, Walker is on the cover of Time Magazine in another. But nothing like this, which can hardly even be called a reference to Saigon; it's more like a reenactment with the wrong setting. It's a moment that is either going to drive you crazy or bring the whole movie together. For me, it was the latter.
Tarantino has occasionally been compared to Alex Cox (who made Repo Man and Sid and Nancy), and surely depoliticizing this last moment makes me think of the fantasy-fulfillment ending of Inglorious Basterds. This is a good comparison also because what is best about both movies is their insistence on humor as a device to counterbalance the respectively political and cultural statements in the films. Walker could be yet another The Good Shepard, where straight-faced men say straight-faced things about US power and hubris. Instead, it takes the surrealist route, which makes the movie simultaneously angrier and more enjoyable, and sadly still relevant.