Director: Alex Cox
Actors: Ed Harris
Runtime: 94 min
William Walker was US adventurer and mercenary who (among other things) organized a private military expedition to Nicaragua in 1855. This expedition was funded by Cornelius Vanderbilt, a tycoon who controlled transportation in Nicaragua, since at that time the Panama Canal hasn’t been constructed yet and trade between New York and San Francisco was conducted through Nicaragua. Walker took over Nicaragua, declared himself president and ruled until 1857 when he was driven out by a coalition of Central American armies. The day of Walker’s defeat is celebrated as national holiday in Costa Rica.
This acid western, which is dominated by surreal atmosphere of madness and complete disarray, is in fact fantastic political satire. Walker, clearly a representative of the interests of big business, goes around talking about peace, democracy and freedom the whole time, while bringing despair, death and enslavement. At the heart of Walker’s madness is the ideology of US imperialism, which can be best seen in contrast with what is actually going on, the way Americans in the field perceive this reality, and the image of it all being sent to the USA. At the very beginning of the movie we are informed that it is based on actual events, probably because much of the story seems completely unbelievable. Indeed, some of the most incredible events are amazingly true, such as the reintroduction of slavery or burning of the city of Granada, which is portrayed so intensely that its insanity is comparable to the Great fire of Rome.
Finally, Walker’s last speech and the ending of the movie brings us straight to 1987 – the time of Iran-Contra scandal, when the Reagan administration covertly trained, armed and funded counter-revolutionary forces in Nicaragua in an attempt to overthrow the leftist government. Based on actual events.
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