“Savior” is another movie set in the Bosnian War. In fact, it was the first movie shot in Serbia after the war ended. Director Predrag Antonijevic, who was a political prisoner during the war, attempted to bring the dysfunctional nature of the war to Western audiences. To gin up interest, the movie stars Dennis Quaid.
Quaid plays Joshua Rose. Joshua is a State Department official stationed in Paris. His wife (the second-billed Natassja Kinski) is killed by Islamic terrorists before Kinski’s name appears in the credits. Joshua responds in a human way by going to a mosque and opening fire on Muslims. Then it’s off to a new life and new name (Guy) in the French Foreign Legion. Six years pass and he is a mercenary sniper for the Bosnian Serbs. He lives to kill Muslims and Bosnia in 1992 is the best place in the world to do that. He is soulless and does not shirk from shooting kids. He would be unredeemable if this was not a movie. In a bombed out town, he and his Bosnian partner Goran encounter a Serbian woman named Vera (Natasa Ninkovic). She has been impregnated by a Muslim soldier which means Bosnian Serb men consider her to be dishonored. Guy regains his humanity and starts his redemption arc when he saves Vera from being murdered by his partner. He then delivers the baby. At this point the movie becomes a road picture and a chase film. Guy and Vera’s odyssey to a safe zone brings them into contact with the type of characters you find in a civil war. They are helped at one point by an old Serbian/Croat couple. The old man sums up the war: “I am Croat, my wife Serb. Before the war – no difference. Now… stupid”. The chase involves Goran’s vendetta-minded relatives (assisted by Vera’s father). Through this hellscape, Guy and Vera bond, of course. If you think they are going to get married and live happily ever after, think again.
“Savior” is a grim movie that informs an American audience about the mess that was the Bosnian War. Quaid’s participation brought it some recognition, but the brutally honest take on the war was not exactly box office magic. Quaid is excellent as the broken Joshua. He behaves the way I could see myself behaving given what happens to his wife. The redemption cliché is stale, but necessary. Natasa Ninkovic holds her own. She won several best actress awards at various festivals. There is chemistry between the leads, but thankfully the movie is not a traditional romance. There are some despicable villains including a Chetnik leader who carries medieval weapons in a golf bag. There are some powerful scenes, none more gut-wrenching than when that villain massacres a group of civilians while Guy watches in hiding with the baby. The movie is not without flaws. It tends to get melodramatic is spots. It is sometimes difficult to tell the Serbs from the Croats (but maybe that was intentional for a war that had no good guys). And it has a weird and unsatisfying ending.
Will it crack the 100 Best War Movies? Nope, but it is not a bad movie and deserves a watch. Especially if you have not seen a movie about the Bosnian War.
GRADE = B