StoryFilmed in Montenegro and based on true accounts of the early '90s ethnic clashes between Serbia and neighboring states, Savior is a harrowing triumph for Serbian director Pedrag Peter Antonijevic and actor Dennis Quaid. For Antonijevic, who shaped Robert Orr's script through his own knowledge of the Serb-Bosnian struggle, the story provides the daunting challenge of putting a human face on a monstrous chapter in modern Europe's geopolitical evolution, and of transcending nationalism by capturing an even-handed but hardly unemotional portrait of the "war psychosis" that only partly explains the deep, divisive hatreds at work. For Quaid, Savior rescues his artistic reputation after too many formulaic studio outings that attempted merely to cash in on his wolfish charms.
Quaid is Joshua Rose, an American in Paris traumatized by the death of his wife and child in an Islamic terrorist bombing, wreaking immediate and fateful vengeance on innocent Muslim worshippers, then escaping into a new life as a mercenary supporting Bosnian Serbs. Under the nom du guerre Guy, Rose is a remorseless, nearly comatose presence until he intervenes in a brutal attack on a Serbian woman (Natasa Ninkovic) pregnant from a Muslim rape. Guy's gradual immersion in his charge's destiny brings him face to face with the centuries-old political, religious, and cultural feuds that haunt the region, and Quaid's own salvation comes through a remarkably subdued, sober performance. That restraint, and Quaid's haggard, close-cropped features are all but unrecognizable to those more familiar with his cocky, grinning turns as a more conventional hero.
Antonijevic makes the journey absorbing and, ultimately, elegiac, punctuated by a few brief but convincingly gruesome action sequences including a civilian massacre that would have been the climax of a more conventional war film. Instead, it's Quaid's own epiphanies that distinguish this probing, heartbreaking drama. The DVD edition retains the original widescreen aspect ratio and includes an audio commentary from the director. --Sam Sutherland.
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