The title of One Man’s War refers to the battle waged by the real-life Joel Filartiga against the government of Paraguay. As he is portrayed by The Silence of the Lambs’ Anthony Hopkins, Filartiga is a doctor who runs a clinic for the poor in a small village; an artist, he supports the clinic by selling his paintings.
Invited to show his work in the United States in the late ’70s, Filartiga uses the opportunity to speak out against human-rights abuses he has witnessed — the beating and torture of political dissidents protesting the policies of the country’s leader, General Alfredo Stroessner. When Filartiga returns to Paraguay, he learns that his son (Leonardo Garcia) is dead. The military police say he was stabbed by a neighborhood man, but Filartiga finds evidence of torture. Convinced his son was murdered by the government to silence him, Filartiga takes his case to court, aided by a lawyer played by Rubén Blades (The Milagro Beanfield War).
The protagonist of One Man’s War isn’t a standard-issue good guy: The way Hopkins plays him, Filartiga is a brave but flawed man. The movie suggests that one reason Filartiga pursues his son’s killers with such vigor is that he was rather cold toward the boy and was pressuring him to become a doctor, a career the young man didn’t want. It’s interesting that Hopkins’ character is motivated by guilt as well as high-mindedness. Most of the time, however, and despite Hopkins’ confident, energetic performance, One Man’s War is a tiresome melodrama complete with courtroom theatrics and passionate speeches about the obvious — torture is bad; free speech is good. ”I don’t want to lecture,” says Hopkins’ Filartiga at one point. But he does, he does. C