Amistad (1997)

AMISTAD is a bit of a sit.  Seemingly shooting for another SCHIN-
DLER'S, Steven Spielberg only halfway hits the mark with this fas-
cinating but emotionally under-involving 19th Century history les-
son.  He nails the slave ship sequences, to be sure-- they're as 
riveting as anything you'll see this season.  Too bad they occupy 
no more than 20 or 30 minutes of screen time, tops.  The rest is 
talky courtroom stuff, with a bit of punchy humor, here and there, 
in each culture's reaction to the other.  (Particularly choice is 
the African take on Christianity.)  The period detail is excellent 
and the actors are quite good, even if the cast is populated by a 
few too many familiar faces.  (Look, there's Stellan Skarsgard from 
GOOD WILL HUNTING!  Look, there's Daniel von Bargen from THE POST-
MAN!)  Most jarring is John William's score, which intrudes to the 
point of embarrassment.  (The "give us free" moment is particularly 
painful.)  Schmaltz has its place in many Spielberg movies, but not 
this one.  With Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey, Morgan Free-
man, Nigel Hawthorne, David Paymer, Pete Postlethwaite, and in a 
small but colorful role, Anthony Hopkins as John Quincy Adams.  
(Rated "R"/157 min.)

Grade: B-

Copyright 1997 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: In Brief

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros