Fighting the good fight

How many doctors has Anthony Hopkins played?

The lunatic shrink in "Silence of the Lambs," the doctor who is unable to heal Elizabeth Montgomery in the remake of "Dark Victory," the Nazi doctor in the miniseries "QB VII." And now a saint in a white coat in "One Man's War," an HBO movie that premieres at 8 tomorrow night.


Hopkins can play 15 or 20 more doctors, if he keeps being this good.

He's very good indeed in "One Man's War," which is set in 1976 and based on the real life of physician Joel Filartiga.


The real doctor is a Paraguayan who runs a clinic for the poor in his country. On visits to the United States to raise money for the clinic, Filartiga regularly speaks out about repression in Paraguay. For that, he and his family pay a horrific price -- which is what "One Man's War" is about.

To silence Filartiga, police go after members of his family. And the Paraguayan police -- who are experts in torture in HBO's telling -- get what they go after. The retribution the police extract from Filartiga for embarrassing them in the United States, and his attempts not to let the government get away with premeditated murder, are at the heart of the film. It's a heart of great darkness.

The supporting cast is splendid. Norma Aleandro ("The Official Story") plays Filartiga's wife, Nidia, and she gets everything there is to get out of the role.

Ruben Blades portrays Filartiga's lawyer, a man identified only as Perrone. It is not a large role, but Blades fills it with both humor and dignity. That's something Blades regularly does: His characters draw both respect and smiles, a tricky thing to pull off.

The film ends on a hopeful note, which is expected and, perhaps, required in network television, but is a disappointment on cable. After all, the Filartiga family's story is not a demonstration of the goodness of government or the triumph of justice.

There is another problem with the ending. After the last scene of the film, the rest of Filartiga's -- and Paraguay's -- story continues. It is told in words, which are shown on the screen. However, the filmmakers have left so much untold in visual terms that they fill screen after screen with words.

Viewers may be left with the feeling that half the story was left to be read like a book in a rush at the end.

That's too bad. It's a poor ending to an otherwise rich film.