Monday, March 28, 2016

Amistad - 5 stars out of 10

Amistad - 5 stars out of 10

“Amistad” is the American slavery story that made its way to the Supreme Court and yet, you have probably never heard about it.  Steven Spielberg brings this story to life in a slow-moving but compelling courtroom setting.  I expected much more from this film but that’s probably why it is relatively unknown.  It competed for four Oscars in the year that “Titanic” swept the event but I don’t find any of the noteworthy pieces of this puzzle to be that impressive.  The obvious one is Sir Anthony Hopkins and his nomination for Best Supporting Actor as John Quincy Adams.  It is very apparent that the nomination is based solely on his impressive patriotic court monologue because the remainder of his role in the film is just average.  I also found the performances by big names like Matthew McConahy, Morgan Freeman, and one of my favorite character actors (Pete Postlethwaite) to be underwhelming.  The saving grace for the overall acting of this film comes from a young Chiwetel Ejiofor and the non-English-speaking role by Dijmon Hounsou.  These two actors draw attention from the rest in every scene.  It may be worth watching this one just for those two.  The greatest fault of this film is its long-windedness.  I understand that this is mainly the story of a court case but the court case relies on our compassion for the slaves.  The strong imagery drives the story, rendering the 2 1/2-hour runtime unnecessary.  Each excess minute in the courtroom takes away from the poignancy established through the film's introduction and the graphic, heartbreaking flashback.  I credit the screenwriters for humanizing the slaves instead of making them into faceless victims; still, the language barrier and extensive dialogue causes the story to plod along until you stop caring about the slaves.  Another Oscar nomination was earned by John Williams for his scoring of the film but I find it to be average in comparison with many of his other film scores.  It never reaches the heartbreak of “Schindler’s List,” the driving suspense of “Jurassic Park,” or the period-enhancement of “The Patriot.”  There are a few moments but not enough to make this a masterpiece like many of his other films.  Even in a year that was not swept by “Titanic,” I can’t see this film winning any of its Oscar nominations.  “Amistad” is worth seeing for a few memorable performances and the story that it tells, but it is offensive to see Morgan Freeman underused.  Not to mention that in the world of courtroom dramas, you are better off spending your time with a second viewing of “A Few Good Men” or “Runaway Jury.”

[Pictured: This screenshot makes it appear that the courtroom scenes are much more compelling than they actually are.]

No comments:

Post a Comment