Amsterdam, review of David O. Russell’s film with a stellar cast

After the Italian premiere at the Rome Film Festival, it arrives in our cinemas Amsterdamnew film written and directed by David O. Russell.
The story opens in 1933 New York, where Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale) is a doctor who has returned heavily injured from the First World War, who now devotes himself mainly to the care of veterans like him and to experimenting (on himself) with new medicines and treatments; one day he is contacted by his friend Harold Woodsman (John David Washington), an African-American lawyer known in the army in France, to help him investigate the suspected death of their former general. Soon the two friends find themselves involved in an intrigue that will lead them to find an old acquaintance of theirs, Valerie (Margot Robbie), the nurse who had treated them in the war and with whom the relationship was then consolidated during their stay in the city that gives the film its title.
The film sees the return to the big screen, seven years on Joy with Jennifer Lawrence, by an author with a fluctuating career path, whose works are usually characterized by the mixture of genres, often hovering between his indie roots and a more mainstream cinema, and the ability to assemble a cast of big names.

This is also true in the case of Amsterdamwhich with an opening message immediately informs the viewer that “much of what is about to see has really happened”: the story takes inspiration from a real political conspiracy, known as the Business Plot, around which it develops a plot that blends the drama and comedy, noir and political thriller, giving life to a tangled, often chaotic story that fills the eyes and mind with characters, situations, dialogues, images and sounds.

It is in fact one of those films in which there is a mystery to be solved, and therefore we accompany the protagonists in their search for the truth while awaiting the great final resolution, but the path is so full of digressions that they themselves become the heart of the film: it is a story whose form is essential to the content, in which rhythm and tone are also dictated by the editing, and in which the visual element plays a very important role.

Amsterdam in fact it has an eccentric and over the top approach, as meticulous in detail as it is often stylized, which partly proceeds with a collage of moments that contain entire stories, including characters: some affinity comes to mind with the almost cartoonish style of the cinema of Wes Anderson, also usually characterized by a myriad of actors, even well known, who appear even for only a few poses. In fact, Russell’s film deploys a parade of prestigious names for which, from one scene to another, the public will have fun recognizing familiar faces, in a very heterogeneous cast: in addition to the aforementioned performers, also Robert De Niro (now one of the director’s fetish actors), Chris Rock, Zoe Saldana, Taylor Swift, Mike Myers, Michael Shannon, Matthias Schoenaerts and others, with a special mention to the couple Rami Malek-Anya Taylor-Joy. As for the central trio, on the other hand, Washington has a strangely undefined role to be one of the protagonists, the part of Robbie is more substantial but always a bit restrained (a Robbie a bit too restrained in a part at least on the most substantial paper ), and therefore prevails is the character of a Bale here in an unusually (for him) comic guise, disheveled hair and a glass eye that occasionally jumps to the ground forcing him on all fours to feel floors and sidewalks.

Among the many themes touched upon by the screenplay, the warning about the danger of the rise of totalitarian regimes stands out (which invites comparisons with the present) and, by extension, the story of how history is also made by those people who, while remaining at the margins of society, can join forces to make their contribution to making the world, as far as possible, a better, more open and tolerant place.

Amsterdam it is therefore an ambitious film, whose narrative richness is partly watered down in an exercise in style, with a plot that at times risks confusing or losing the viewer’s attention; all this is staged with a curated and captivating historical reconstruction, from the sepia-toned photography of the three-time Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezkisets and costumes, up to the music of Daniel Pemberton to act as a marked sound commentary on the images.

Evaluation of Matilde Capozio:
6 on 10

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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