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Movie Review

Silver City

MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for language

Reviewed by: Chris Monroe

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Drama, Politics, Mystery
2 hr. 9 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Copyright, Newmarket Films Copyright, Newmarket Films Copyright, Newmarket Films Copyright, Newmarket Films
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Newmarket Films

Does character matter in political leaders? Answer

What part should morality play in politics? Answer

Featuring: Chris Cooper, Richard Dreyfuss, Billy Zane, Danny Huston, Daryl Hannah
Director: John Sayles
Producer: John Sayles, Maggie Renzi
Distributor: Newmarket Films

“Vote early. Vote often.”

Although it sounds affluent and successful, a place like Silver City is certainly not an ideal place to live—and obviously not one with streets paved with gold. Instead, the environment is portrayed with dirty politics, selfish ambition, murder, hate and lying. The motive for presenting this corruption is clearly intended to criticize President George W. Bush and other like-minded conservative people in the United States, but the film “Silver City” also tries to provide a human story for us to associate with as well.

With his campaign trek begun for Governor of the State of Colorado, Dick Pilager (Chris Cooper) uncovers a dead body during the making of an environmental commercial. Pilager’s spokesman, Chuck Raven (Richard Dreyfuss) assumes this is the work of the opposing party and, on a whim, writes down the names of three people he suspects are behind this dead body gag. After hiring Danny O’Brien (Danny Huston) to personally “warn” the three people, he is finally fired when he begins to unveil things that threaten Raven and his party. Seeing himself as a loser, Danny travails through opposition until he becomes a kind of hero.

A blurb in the New York Times stated that director John Sayles is candid about the fact that Dick Pilager is modeled after President George W. Bush. These moments in the film aren’t just insinuations, but actual things that President George W. Bush has said, done, or been criticized about directly. These include a slight accent, stumbling over his words during public addresses, being an outdoorsy man, having a D.W.I. on his record, being the son of a significant political leader and more. The references are forthright and mostly used in a demeaning way.

While he is central to the plot (and most of the promotion for the movie) Dick Pilager is not the main character of the story. The protagonist we follow is Danny O’Brien as he visits Raven’s suspects and struggles with his own personal love life. The idea is that we relate with Danny as he researches and discovers the truth behind the mystery of the dead man. Sayles uses some subtlety in presenting his political arguments, but is also a bit heavy-handed, specifically in how he uses Danny. Sayles’s approach seems to be objective, but the contrivances that are used really cause some author intrusion. And because there is such an obvious political agenda, it tends to distract from the more meaningful parts, ultimately weakening it.

One aspect of Dick Pilager resembling President George W. Bush that is brought out several times is his Christianity. One scene shows Pilager meeting privately in a room with his spiritual adviser—a preacher whom we later see on television preaching about Armageddon. In this scene the Lord’s name is taken in vain by Raven as he is aggravated by Pilager’s meeting. He exclaims the name Jesus Christ, to which the coordinator outside the door says, “He may be in there, too.” While Christianity itself isn’t necessarily assaulted directly throughout the film, overall it really doesn’t seem to be respected at all. More than anything it feels like it is treated with indifference.

Apart from taking the Lord’s name in vain, there is also the constant use of the “f” word throughout. They don’t go overboard in any one scene, but it is scattered throughout and used by various people. There is one adult situation implying that Danny and Maddy (Darryl Hannah) sleep together, but nothing of it is shown. Maddy is a bit provocatively dressed at times, though, and coinciding with promiscuous stories we hear about her.

Sayles strengths in filmmaking lie in his tight, coherent scripts flourishing in plot, character and dialogue. But his pictures are nothing extraordinary and are mainly functional. His actors perform well in their purpose, but aren’t given moments to be exceptional. It is appreciated, though, how Sayles takes time to develop characters like the Mexican cook Tony Guerra (Sal Lopez) who helps Danny, instead of portraying him in some stereotypical way. You can also see this kind of sensitivity in his film “Men With Guns.”

There is an encouraging human story to be enjoyed here, but the poignancy of the political agenda really upstages it. The views presented might challenge you, but it feels like this film is more of a platform to parade one party’s point of view.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Minor

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—Yawn! Yawn! Another boring thinly disguised “liberal agenda” movie. Hollywood is mostly run by liberals, and this just proves the point. A waste of time whether you are conservative or liberal due to the sophomoric writing and lackluster story.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1½]
Laura, age 30
Negative—Raving Liberals.They are almost stupid at times. Republicans don’t make dumb movies to criticize (like for instance John Kerry), even though he is totally eligible for it. Oh well, freedom of film rules. Worthless film in my opinion just like Fahrenheit 9/11. I am looking forward to a real film of the events of 9/11 coming out this year. Not this stuff.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1]
Ryan Murphy, age 17
Movie Critics
…parody of the Bush family, disgusting language, some violence, a mean-spirited political message, and a negative portrayal of religious figures…
Mary Draughon, Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…[Director] John Sayles fails to turn his Moore-like outrage over the state of the nation into entertaining or interesting fiction… the villains are purely cartoonish…
Paul Sherman, Boston Herald
…Same old lefty claptrap… this is hardly the time to recycle dated fictional no-brainers that won’t change anyone’s mind about anything…
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader Guide to Arts and Entertainment
…This sprawling and blunt new John Sayles film is less a freshly hatched and cohesive pre-election polemic than a dramatically reheated survey of recurring concerns and themes from his past films…
Duane Dudek, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
…Subtlety is scarce in “Silver City,” and that’s the way Sayles wants it…
Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press
…a botched assault on Bush… hampered… by awkward dialogue, a dreadful romantic subplot and too many extraneous characters…
Chris Hewitt, St. Paul Pioneer Press