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Top Customer Reviews
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.
On the other hand, the scenes where the whites triumphed on behalf of the blacks were indeed maudlin and sentimental in presentation, and did seem to send a message of "See? Not all white people are so bad." Nonetheless, the portrait of Van Buren and the political scene of the time were strong reminders that there were plenty of whites at fault..........As for the criticisms by Hispanics that the movie portrays Spanish/Cuban people as villains, I do not see that.....As a person with Cuban ancestry, I think the movie portrayed pretty much what happened.....should Spielberg have tried to make the 2 Cuban slavers look sympathetic so as not to hurt Hispanic peoples' feelings? How should he have portrayed the queen of Spain? The Spanish royal family has always been subject to criticism, much of it from within Spain: look at the portraits painted by Goya of the Spanish court. The corruption of that institution could fill volumes.....
In viewing this film and then reading the reviews, one thing has become very clear to me: that both whites and minorities in this country still view history through their own special racial/ethnic lenses, and with a great deal of defensiveness....to move toward the values which Spielberg tried to put forth in Amistad, we must all strive for a little more objectivity.....
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.Read more ›
As most viewers realize early in this film, it was not designed to provide audiences with pleasant entertainment. Rather, it is a kind of didactic drama, serving--like Euripides' ancient Greek play THE TROJAN WOMEN (415 B.C.E.) and the recent George Clooney film SYRIANA (2005)--both as a reminder of a nation's flawed past actions and as a plea to be better in the future. Insofar as racism and racial violence are still thriving in our country--often encouraged by some politicians and pundits in low places--AMISTAD's main message is still needed, and the film is still an effective means of awakening people to the injustice of granting some citizens a place of special privilege while other citizens are kept subordinate.
By a fluke of historical fate, however, this film can draw our attention to things that were not in the forefront of its makers' minds at that time. Viewing AMISTAD in the winter of 2008, I was struck by the repulsive actions of President Martin Van Buren, who hungered so strongly for a second term that he repeatedly tried to deny justice to the wronged men and women of the slave ship--even intervening to have their favorable verdict overturned by the Supreme Court (which at that time seemed to be stacked in his favor by a margin of 7 to 2). Do our presidents ever commit such immoral acts nowadays? Does anyone of any party doubt it? And do the members of our Supreme Court ever make their decisions on the basis of "party loyalty" despite what our laws and our Constitution may say to the contrary? Are we ever in danger of having a majority of such false justices making vital, life-altering decisions?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This raw, brutal and realist account of the slave trade is not for the faint hearted. Directed by Steven Spielberg and with a stellar cast comprising Morgan Freeman, Anthony... Read morePublished 6 hours ago by Lynette McClenaghan
great movie -- with great performances .... even more so because it's true historyPublished 3 days ago by lawrence e marshall
Story plot is great and actors are outstanding. It lost my students' interest during the trial portion.Published 6 days ago by sunnyskies
DVD was in excellent condition. I think I am the only person on earth who had not already viewed this DVD.
Plan to watch again tonight.
Having read “John Quincy Adams” by Robert V. Remini which features an account of JQA’s concern for human rights and his efforts in winning the freedom of thirty-nine African... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Ricardo Mio
Great movie. I had it on video so bought it on dvd and I just love it.Published 1 month ago by Loretta M. Vallee