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Amistad (1997)

Djimon Hounsou , Matthew McConaughey , Steven Spielberg  |  R |  DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (255 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey, Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Nigel Hawthorne
  • Directors: Steven Spielberg
  • Writers: David Franzoni
  • Producers: Bob Cooper, Bonnie Curtis, Colin Wilson, Debbie Allen, Laurie MacDonald
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Dreamworks Video
  • DVD Release Date: May 4, 1999
  • Run Time: 155 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (255 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0783231202
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,972 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Amistad" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Behind-the-scenes featurette

Editorial Reviews

Steven Spielberg's most simplistic, sanitized history lesson, Amistad, explores the symbolic 1840s trials of 53 West Africans following their bloody rebellion aboard a slave ship. For most of Schindler's List (and, later, Saving Private Ryan) Spielberg restrains himself from the sweeping narrative and technical flourishes that make him one of our most entertaining and manipulative directors. Here, he doesn't even bother trying, succumbing to his driving need to entertain with beautiful images and contrived emotion. He cheapens his grandiose motives and simplifies slavery, treating it as cut- and-dry genre piece. Characters are easy Hollywood stereotypes--"villains" like the Spanish sailors or zealous abolitionists are drawn one-dimensionally and sneered upon. And Spielberg can't suppress his gifted eye, undercutting normally ugly sequences, such as the terrifying slave passage, which is shot as a gorgeous, well-lit composition. At its core, Amistad is a traditional courtroom drama, centered by a tired, clichéd narrative: a struggling, idealistic young lawyer (Matthew McConaughey) fighting the crooked political system and saving helpless victims. Worse yet, Spielberg actually takes the underlying premise of his childhood fantasy, E.T. and repackages it for slavery. Cinque (Djimon Hounsou), the leader of the West African rebellion, is presented much like the adorable alien: lost, lacking a common language, and trying to find his way home. McConaughey is a grown-up Elliot who tries communicating complicated ideas such as geography by drawing pictures in the sand or language by having Cinque mimic his facial expressions. Such stuff was effective for a sci-fi fantasy about the communication barriers between a boy and a lost alien; here, it seems like a naive view of real, complex history. --Dave McCoy

Product Description

Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins, Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey. An African man leads a revolt aboard a slave ship, then is tried for his crime. Directed by Steven Spielberg. 1997/color/152 min/R/widescreen.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So what if history is made more entertaining? June 10, 2003
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
Have the critics of this film's historical "accuracy" never heard of "dramatic license"? If they had, then they would understand that Spielberg, like most of his profession, slightly alters history to make for greater theatrical effect or even heighten the events of the story. "Amistad" achieves both with scenes of horror combined with those of great poignancy that make for a total movie experience.
While there are times when the film drags, the performances and the engrossing story itself make up for the few inadequacies. Though stars Morgan Freeman (especially riveting in the inspection of the Amistad scene), Anthony Hopkins, and Matthew McConaughey perform well in their respective roles, the best acting belongs to Djimon Hounsou, Razaag Adoti, and Abu Bakarr Fofanah as three of the Africans, and the underrated Pete Postlethwaite as prosecutor Holabird. Nigel Hawthorne, as the inept President Van Buren, and Peter Firth as a conscious-ridden British ship captain are also memorable.
Spielberg skillfully balances a movie that is a courtroom drama mixed with an indictment against the slave system of America's past. The scenes of the events of the cursed "Middle Passage" are as graphic as is possible within the confines of Hollywood filmmaking.
John Williams contributes a beautiful and understated score, just below the surface of the on-screen events, providing just enough to carry the story along.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great but not Spielberg at his best January 7, 2006
What Spielberg did for the Holocaust in Schindler's List, and WWII in Saving Private Ryan, he did with our terrible past of slavery in Amistad. While this movie was not hailed by critics far and wide, and was actually considered unsuccessful, those who understand what truly makes a movie and a beautiful story will see the power of Amistad. As usual, the directing is emotional and heart-wrenching and the cinematography is beautiful. The acting on all accounts is wonderful and captivates the essence of the time. The actual story of the Amistad, slavery, and the personal view through Cinque is powerfully moving. This is a movie not to be missed that pack an emotional punch for any who watch it. But do not expect much action. It is purely drama, and the story's power lies in the words, expressions, and actions of the actors who make it up. It will really make you think. Truly one of the most beautiful movies I've seen, once again, Spielberg has proved himself to be the master of putting the human spirit on the silver screen.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some unpleasant historical truths explored January 15, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
This is an important video to see. Based on the historical incident in 1839 of a group of 45 slaves who took over their ship, the Amistad, and wound up in Connecticut. This is a the story of slavery as only Steven Spielberg could tell it. And it is also the story of the United States of America headed toward civil war, the story of petty politics, and a serious debate in front of the supreme court with Anthony Hopkins as John Quincy Adams.
The film is full of those modern touches that make it so typical of movies of the late 1990's. Subtitles are used as the slaves speak in their own language and the Spanish crews speak in theirs. This adds an authenticity to the story. In contrast, another 1990s touch that detracts from its authenticity is that the slaves all look as if their well-muscled bodies were toned in modern gyms.
The scenes of the Africans on the slave ship are the most moving that I have ever seen filmed. The chains are heavy and real, the terror and despair excruciating, the entire ordeal brought to the screen in horrifying detail. Contrasted to this are the Americans in Connecticut, doing their best to create this new country. There are abolitionists spouting moral values, lawyers debating whether the Africans are slaves or free people because of details of law, and an international treaty with Spain that is rife with politics.
The video is three hours long, which could have been trimmed by at least an hour. The speeches get a little pompous sometimes and go on much longer than they need to. Morgan Freeman plays a role that has obviously been written in to show that there were some wealthy free blacks in that era, a role which should have been either expanded or eliminated.
Although not perfect, this video should be seen.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Good September 29, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
This is worth a viewing. I've got a friend who is a professor of history that recommended it, however, he mentioned that Spielberg conveniently cut the history short - Cinque went back to become a slave king in Africa.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling portrayal of a historically dark time. November 30, 1998
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Amistad may be seen by some as another Spielberg tale that gets lost in itself, but the film ably captured a number of notable characters from US history, particularly John Quincy Adams, played exceptionally well by Anthony Hopkins, and President Martin Van Buren. The oafish presentation of Van Buren to the audience may seem to be a smack in the face to the Presidency, but Martin Van Buren really was that bad. My only disappointment was that Cinque was depicted as learning only a very short speech in English ("Make us -- us free!", but the historical counterpart actually became quite versed in the language and wrote an empassioned letter to JQ Adams enlisting his support in their cause. While the movie minimized this element for dramatic purposes, I think it diminished the dignity of the character of Cinque in the process. Overall, the performances and the presentation were compelling, and the story holds up well. Although some of the elements, such as the geography lesson in the dirt floor of the cell, may seem a bit contrived, they establish the feelings of the characters. Anyone with an interest in American History certainly should see this film, but it is also entertaining in its own right.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Movie
I mean what can I say? It's Amistad, one of the greatest movies of all time. A very close retelling of historical events, a bit hard to watch at times but it's true so watch to the... Read more
Published 1 hour ago by Mimi Mazrook
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required viewing for American history classes
One of the most important stories ever, brought to film by Speilberg. What more can I say? Watch it. Everybody should.
Published 12 days ago by emily folmar
5.0 out of 5 stars great movie
If you like a deep has a great story and it was very well played. I find the way these slaves were traded (and stolen) to be appalling but had to watch this again after... Read more
Published 13 days ago by Edie
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Movie
Used this as fodder for a research paper into films, and their ability to sway the public sentiment. Highly recommend.
Published 23 days ago by Robert T. Preston
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece
I loved this movie! In my opinion this movie was a masterpiece. A beautiful work of art. I recommend everyone watch this movie. Read more
Published 29 days ago by TBH
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Acting
Very sad story! Great acting! This movie really makes you stop and think about what times were like bit also makes you thankful for what we have now.
Published 1 month ago by Misty Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars Amistad
Great movie tells the story of slavery.
The Africans had every right to fight for their freedom.
They where kidnapped taking by force from their home land. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Todd S.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie
Great acting with a story rooted in history. When I first saw the movie I wanted to find out more about the historic events. Read more
Published 1 month ago by daha
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing !
I had to watch this for school and i was not upset. This movie was very interesting. It didn't even feel like 2 and a half hrs . I would definitely recommend this to everyone . Read more
Published 1 month ago by katelyn lugo
5.0 out of 5 stars This movie is great
This is an excellent movie to watch. I love watching movies of my history that is not in school books!!!
Published 1 month ago by JoNay
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Is Amistad movie for Children?
Apr 8, 2008 by R. GRAHAM |  See all 3 posts
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